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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R045577/1
Title: Nanoscale thermodynamics: From Experiments and Applications to a practical Theory (nanoFEAT)
Principal Investigator: Anders, Dr J
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
ENS-LSH Lyon Seagate Technology Toshiba
University of York
Department: Physics
Organisation: University of Exeter
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 29 June 2018 Ends: 28 June 2023 Value (£): 1,005,985
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Quantum Optics & Information
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Electronics
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Apr 2018 EPSRC Physical Sciences - April 2018 Announced
05 Jun 2018 EPSRC Physical Sciences Fellowship Interview Panel June 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Thermodynamics plays a central role in science and engineering. Introduced at the beginning of the industrial revolution it has been applied ever since to design a great variety of useful large scale devices, from fridges to solar cells. Now technological progress is increasingly miniaturising to the nanoscale and into the quantum regime where thermal fluctuations compete with quantum fluctuations. Recent theoretical advances have started to fill the void of a thermodynamic theory that fully includes non-equilibrium aspects, small ensemble sizes and quantum properties. However, consolidating the newly developed tools and making them of practical use, by specifying implications for experiment and ultimately technology, remain challenges that need to be solved.

This project aims to bridge this gap in our understanding. To achieve this, the team will take a synergetic approach:

We will first clarify theoretically in what way quantum coherence can be regarded as a thermodynamic resource in quantum experiments where control is limited and noise is present. We will secondly use existing theoretical methods and develop new tools to analyse quantum thermodynamic experiments that attempt to show that one can draw work from quantum coherences.

Thirdly, we will set up a new theoretical framework that captures the thermodynamic properties of small scale quantum systems, which do not obey the standard thermodynamic assumption of the system interacting weakly with its environment. This includes deriving strong coupling corrections to the standard repertoire of equilibrium thermodynamics, such as the system's internal energy, its entropy and its heat capacity.

Finally, the theoretical description of nanoscale quantum systems will be translated into the context of magnetic hard disks. Hard disks store bits of information in nanometre-sized grains, which are made up of many individual quantum spins, and interact with their environment consisting of neighbouring grains as well as the crystal lattice of the magnetic material and electrons. The miniaturisation of magnetic disks is an obvious technological setting where the new theoretical methods can be applied and tested. The team will build a test model for hard disks that store information in spin-grains whose size is reduced below 8 nm. By including strong coupling and quantum effects we hope to improve simulations of the magnetisation dynamics of these small grains and identify which sources of damping and noise affect the information stored on these disks. This is important input for UK hard drive manufacturers, such as Seagate Technology which is a partner of this research programme, that helps them design hard drives that are cheap and reliable, allow for faster access times and have smaller drive sizes. The general public makes use of such hard disks for example when storing information on Dropbox, YouTube and using cloud services on smartphones.

The project combines interdisciplinary theoretical methods with advanced nanoscale experiments to extract fundamental physics insights that are then applied in an industrially relevant setting. With many technologies expected to push to the nanoscale in the next 10-20 years this is essential to enable us to harness finite size and quantum effects in modern technologies, with applications expected to range from small scale data storage and recording techniques to improvements in predictive use of medical data, imaging at small scales, energy capture and transfer in small machines, and manufacturing of nanoscale devices.
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Organisation Website: http://www.ex.ac.uk