Quantum point contacts as heat engines

Pilgram, S.; Sánchez, D.: López, R.
Physica E 74, 447-450 (2015)

The efficiency of macroscopic heat engines is restricted by the second law of thermodynamics. They can reach at most the efficiency of a Carnot engine. In contrast, heat currents in mesoscopic heat engines show fluctuations. Thus, there is a small probability that a mesoscopic heat engine exceeds Carnot's maximum value during a short measurement time. We illustrate this effect using a quantum point contact as a heat engine. When a temperature difference is applied to a quantum point contact, the system may be utilized as a source of electrical power under steady state conditions. We first discuss the optimal working point of such a heat engine that maximizes the generated electrical power and subsequently calculate the statistics of possible deviations of the efficiency from its most likely value.

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