Multitasking Devices!

What does it take to design and build multi-purpose and multi-tasking devices?

Report on “multitasking nanomachine” by

A multitasking nanomachine that can act as a heat engine and a refrigerator at the same time has been created by RIKEN engineers. The device is one of the first to test how quantum effects, which govern the behavior of particles on the smallest scale, might one day be exploited to enhance the performance of nanotechnologies.

“Conventional heat engines and refrigerators work by connecting two pools of fluid. Compressing one pool causes its fluid to heat up, while rapidly expanding the other pool cools its fluid. If these operations are done in a periodic cycle, the pools will exchange energy and the system can be used as either a heat engine or a fridge.

It would be impossible to set up a macroscale machine that does both tasks simultaneously—nor would engineers want to, says Keiji Ono of the RIKEN Advanced Device Laboratory. “Combining a traditional heat engine with a refrigerator would make it a completely useless machine,” he says. “It wouldn’t know what to do.”

But things are different when you shrink things down. Physicists have been developing ever smaller devices, sometimes based on single atoms. At these tiny scales, they have to account for quantum theory—the strange set of laws that says, for instance, an electron can exist in two places at the same time or have two different energies. Physicists are developing new theoretical frameworks and experiments to try to work out how such systems will behave.”

This sure is an interesting “mind fodder” to come up with new product ideas in different industries. Happy ideating and innovating!

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Reference: “Analog of a Quantum Heat Engine Using a Single-Spin Qubit” by K. Ono, S. N. Shevchenko, T. Mori, S. Moriyama and Franco Nori, 15 October 2020, Physical Review Letters. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.125.166802

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