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Very tiny, very cool

Physicists propose way to build ‘refrigerator’ using just a handful of particles

1:03pm, August 27, 2010

Annoyingly tiny fridges may not be restricted to hotels or dorm rooms much longer. A new study proposes a way to construct the smallest refrigerator yet, based on just a few particles and capable of cooling to near absolute zero. 

The study, which will appear in an upcoming issue of Physical Review Letters, pushes the limits of how small a cooling device can get and still remain functional.

“When thermodynamics was first invented, it was applied to big, steam engine sorts of things,” says physicist Tony Short of the University of Cambridge in England, who was not involved in the study. “The fact that you can bring the ideas all the way down to individual quantum systems of tiny dimensions and the same basic ideas still work is quite nice.”

Study coauthors Noah Linden, Sandu Popescu and Paul Skrzypczyk, all of the University of Bristol in England, propose a cooling scheme that relies on three linked qubits — part

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