Time-Energy Uncertainty Principle for Irreversible Heat Engines


Even though irreversibility is one of the major hallmarks of any real life process, an actual understanding of irreversible processes remains still mostly semiempirical.

In this paper we formulate a thermodynamic uncertainty principle for irreversible heat engines operating with an ideal gas as a working medium. In particular, we show that the time needed to run through such an irreversible cycle multiplied by the irreversible work lost in the cycle, is bounded from below by an irreducible and process-dependent constant that has the dimension of an action. The constant in question depends on a typical scale of the process and becomes comparable to Planck’s constant at the length scale of the order Bohr-radius, i.e., the scale that corresponds to the smallest distance on which the ideal gas paradigm realistically applies.


R. Hanel, P. Jizba, Time-Energy Uncertainty Principle for Irreversible Heat Engines, Philosophical Transactions A, Vol 378, Issue 2170 (2020)

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