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Without the ability of quantum states to maintain their entanglement and superposition under external forcing, quantum technologies that outperform their classical counterparts would be a pipe dream. But while researchers know that this quantum coherence is key to the operation of quantum sensors and quantum information systems, for example, it is less clear how it might affect thermodynamic devices, such as quantum heat engines. Now, Hiroyasu Tajima of the University of Electro-Communications and Ken Funo of the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research, both in Japan, have taken a step toward answering that question by looking at how quantum coherence influences “friction” in a quantum heat engine [1]. Tajima and Funo say that the results could help researchers build future quantum heat engines that are more powerful and efficient than current classical engines. These quantum engines might be used to cool down quantum systems or to transport energy in nanoscale devices.

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