PhD project: Thermodynamics of timekeeping

Project description

The nature of time is one of the deepest mysteries in theoretical physics. In statistical physics, we are concerned with the arrow of time and its relation to the rate of entropy production in a non-equilibrium system.  The pragmatic physicist's definition of time is "what is measured by a clock." Hence, it is crucial to ask whether there are any fundamental thermodynamic limits on the reliability of clocks. In thermal equilibrium, there is no distinction between past and future, and any clock will equally likely move forward and backward. In order to break this symmetry, it is necessary to drive a clock out of equilibrium. How much energy is needed to drive a reliable clock? Under which conditions is there a trade-off between entropy production and precision?

This project will address these questions by considering minimal models for clocks, consistently accounting for thermal noise in all their degrees of freedom. How can these models be optimised for precision at fixed energetic cost? What other physical constraints limit their precision? The project will be mainly concerned with classical systems, modelled through Langevin processes or Markov jump processes. At later stages of the project, it may also be fruitful to study quantum systems, i.e., minimal models for atomic clocks.

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