Quantum dynamical framework for Brownian heat engines.
Additional Document Info
We present a self-contained formalism modeled after the Brownian motion of a quantum harmonic oscillator for describing the performance of microscopic Brownian heat engines such as Carnot, Stirling, and Otto engines. Our theory, besides reproducing the standard thermodynamics results in the steady state, enables us to study the role dissipation plays in determining the efficiency of Brownian heat engines under actual laboratory conditions. In particular, we analyze in detail the dynamics associated with decoupling a system in equilibrium with one bath and recoupling it to another bath and obtain exact analytical results, which are shown to have significant ramifications on the efficiencies of engines involving such a step. We also develop a simple yet powerful technique for computing corrections to the steady state results arising from finite operation time and use it to arrive at the thermodynamic complementarity relations for various operating conditions and also to compute the efficiencies of the three engines cited above at maximum power. Some of the methods and exactly solvable models presented here are interesting in their own right and could find useful applications in other contexts as well.