Most regular engines convert thermal energy into mechanical work, but an international team of researchers has now designed and implemented an entirely different, quantum engine. Instead of heat, this proof-of-principle microscopic engine runs on the energy difference associated with the statistical properties of quantum matter. And rather than powering the next generation of cars, this type of engine may one day be used to charge quantum batteries or power quantum computers and sensors.

“Engineering is going into the nano world, and at some point, quantum will hit,” says Artur Widera, a physicist at the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany and a leader of the collaboration. “And we’d better be prepared and know what’s going on and how we can use it.”

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