Equilibrium appears in physics, for example, when two objects of different temperatures are placed next to each other. Under these conditions, heat will begin to transfer from a warm body to a cooler body, reaching equilibrium at some point. However, if this flow is disrupted, we can get what is called a heat pump. Its construction is also possible on a quantum scale.
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This is the idea behind Gary Steele and colleagues who have described a quantum isotope of a heat pump. Thanks to it, the situation in which the photons move “opposite” is possible. Previously, scientists used their device for radio frequency photons, but this time they also turned it into an amplifier. As a result, it becomes more sensitive to radio frequency signals.
This is very exciting because we can approach the quantum limit of measuring radio frequency signals, which are frequencies that are difficult to measure otherwise. This new measuring tool could have a myriad of applications, one of which is looking for dark matter.
The described device is made of superconducting coils and capacitors on a silicon chip cooled to a temperature close to absolute zero. Despite these extreme conditions, this temperature may still be too high for some of the photons in the circuit. Using photon compression, the scientists were able to combine these excited photons with cold photons of higher frequency. In previous experiments, this allowed the hot photons to cool down to their quantum ground state.
Now the authors have gone one step further. Using an additional signal sent to the cold circuit, they were able to create a motor that amplifies the cold photons and allows them to be heated. The additional signal also pushes the photons in one direction between the two circuits. When an asymmetry occurs, that is, photons move in one direction more than the other, it is possible to cool photons in one part of the circuit to a lower temperature than the other. This, in turn, creates a quantitative version of the heat pump.
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