We consider a collision between a moving particle and a fixed system, each having internal degrees of freedom. We identify the regime where the motion of the particle acts as a work source for the joint internal system, leading to energy changes which preserve the entropy. This regime arises when the particle has high kinetic energy and its quantum state of motion is broad in momentum and narrow in space, whether pure or mixed. In this case, the scattering map ruling the dynamics of the internal degrees of freedom becomes unitary and equivalent to that of a time-dependent interaction between the internal degrees of freedom of the colliding systems. It follows that the kinetic energy lost by the particle during the autonomous quantum collision coincides with the work performed by the time-dependent interaction. Recently, collisions with particles were shown to act as heat sources under suitable conditions; here we show that they can also act as work sources. This opens interesting perspectives for quantum thermodynamics formulations within scattering theory.
This paper considers the scattering of an incoming particle by a fixed system. We show that this scattering process models a repeated interaction model on the internal structure of the joint particle-system when the particle has high kinetic energy and its quantum state of motion is broad in momentum and narrow in space, whether pure or mixed — work results, in this case, from kinetic energy changes of the incoming particle. Since conditions for incoming particles to behave as a heat source have also been recently identified, our work suggests that scattering problems may provide a rich terrain to explore quantum thermodynamics.
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