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Probabilistically violating the first law of thermodynamics in a quantum heat engine

Timo Kerremans, Peter Samuelsson, Patrick P. Potts

SciPost Phys. 12, 168 (2022) · published 20 May 2022

Abstract

Fluctuations of thermodynamic observables, such as heat and work, contain relevant information on the underlying physical process. These fluctuations are however not taken into account in the traditional laws of thermodynamics. While the second law is extended to fluctuating systems by the celebrated fluctuation theorems, the first law is generally believed to hold even in the presence of fluctuations. Here we show that in the presence of quantum fluctuations, also the first law of thermodynamics may break down. This happens because quantum mechanics imposes constraints on the knowledge of heat and work. To illustrate our results, we provide a detailed case-study of work and heat fluctuations in a quantum heat engine based on a circuit QED architecture. We find probabilistic violations of the first law and show that they are closely connected to quantum signatures related to negative quasi-probabilities. Our results imply that in the presence of quantum fluctuations, the first law of thermodynamics may not be applicable to individual experimental runs.


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