Relativistic quantum systems exhibit unique features not present at lower energies, such as the existence of both particles and antiparticles, and restrictions placed on the system dynamics due to the light cone. In order to understand what impact these relativistic phenomena have on the performance of quantum thermal machines we analyze a quantum Otto engine with a working medium of a relativistic particle in an oscillator potential evolving under Dirac or Klein–Gordon dynamics. We examine both the low-temperature, non-relativistic and high-temperature, relativistic limits of the dynamics and find that the relativistic engine operates with higher work output, but an effectively reduced compression ratio, leading to significantly smaller efficiency than its non-relativistic counterpart. Using the framework of endoreversible thermodynamics we determine the efficiency at maximum power of the relativistic engine, and find it to be equivalent to the Curzon–Ahlborn efficiency.
- Focus on Microscopic Engines and Refrigerators: Theory and Experiments from Classical to Quantum
- quantum heat engine
- relativistic quantum mechanics
- quantum thermodynamics