Extracting work from a single heat bath via vanishing quantum coherence. Academic Article uri icon


  • We present here a quantum Carnot engine in which the atoms in the heat bath are given a small bit of quantum coherence. The induced quantum coherence becomes vanishingly small in the high-temperature limit at which we operate and the heat bath is essentially thermal. However, the phase phi, associated with the atomic coherence, provides a new control parameter that can be varied to increase the temperature of the radiation field and to extract work from a single heat bath. The deep physics behind the second law of thermodynamics is not violated; nevertheless, the quantum Carnot engine has certain features that are not possible in a classical engine.

published proceedings

  • Science

altmetric score

  • 21.666

author list (cited authors)

  • Scully, M. O., Zubairy, M. S., Agarwal, G. S., & Walther, H.

citation count

  • 545

complete list of authors

  • Scully, Marlan O||Zubairy, M Suhail||Agarwal, Girish S||Walther, Herbert

publication date

  • February 2003