Thermodynamics is so fundamental and universal that, as put by Arthur Eddington, any theory that contradicts it is doomed to “collapse in deepest humiliation”. Thermodynamics is ubiquitous and influences a wide range of situations, including the efficiency limitations of solar cells, the arrow of time and how light interacts with matter.

Our goal is to understand how thermodynamics sets limitations to different situations such as energy transformation, stabilization of mesoscopic conductors, behavior of active, small and quantum systems. Such a wide range of processes results in countless applications in a variety of fields.

We achieve this by studying how a system interacts and exchanges energy with its surroundings. This framework can be applied to the study of a wide range of devices such as heat machines, molecular motors, mesoscopic conductors and quantum computers. It can also be useful for the description of non-equilibrium systems as well as active matter. Some of the questions we are trying to answer are:

  • What are the limitations that thermodynamics imposes to the operation of nano heat machines?
  • What are the fundamental limits to energy conversion and how to describe these processes?
  • Are quantum and classical heat machines fundamentally different?
  • How systems behave as function of the interaction strength with their surroundings?

If you are interested in these topics and would like to discuss these or other questions, join or collaborate with us, we’d love to hear from you.


Curiosity, a school play on Albert Einstein’s life, the book “A brief history of time” by Stephen Hawking, and the Discovery Channel initiated my love for sciences and physics. I did my BSc in physics at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), where I discovered both of my current scientific passions: thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. I was lucky enough to be able to combine these two interests during my MSc and PhD at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Under the supervision of Prof. Gershon Kurizki and collaborating with Prof. Robert Alicki, from the Gdansk University in Poland, we studied how thermodynamics sets limitations to quantum systems and found that quantum heat engines are also limited by the Carnot bound.  The models we studied assume what is called the weak coupling assumption, that limits the performance of these machines.

Despite the interesting results, the heat machines studied had a “weak performance” due to the models’ assumptions. Moreover, our results seemed to suggest that there are not fundamental differences between quantum and classical heat machines. My thirst for better understanding these systems brought me to do a postdoc at Harvard University, at Prof. Alán Aspuru-Guzik’s group. I studied heat machines at the strong coupling limit where, to our surprise, we discovered a turnover effect that also limits the performance of these machines. In parallel, we found that there are actually fundamental differences between classical and quantum heat machines, in collaboration with MIT Prof. Vladan Vuletic and his group.

I continued my career at the MIT Physics Department as an independent fellow after being awarded the MIT Physics of Living Systems Fellowship. During this time, I studied non-equilibrium systems and Casimir Heat engines and found that non-reciprocal materials are needed for the operation of these machines.such as graphene or Weyl semimetals

In 2021 I returned to Israel and joined the Schulich faculty of chemistry at the Technion.


Selected publications


A review on thermodynamics of quantum heat machines:

Thermodynamics of quantum systems under dynamical control

D Gelbwaser-Klimovsky, W Niedenzu, G Kurizki

Advances In Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics 64, 329-407

[Link] [Arxiv]


Turnover behavior limiting the performance of heat machines:

Strongly coupled quantum heat machines

D Gelbwaser-Klimovsky, A Aspuru-Guzik

The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 6 (17), 3477–3482

[Link] [Arxiv]


Advantage of quantum heat machines over classical heat machines:

Single-atom heat machines enabled by energy quantization

D Gelbwaser-Klimovsky, A Bylinskii, D Gangloff, R Islam, A Aspuru-Guzik, V Vuletic

Physical review letters 120 (17), 170601

[Link] [Arxiv]


Casimir heat engines based on non-reciprocal media:

Near field propulsion forces from nonreciprocal media

D Gelbwaser-Klimovsky, N Graham, M Kardar, M Krüger

Physical Review Letters 126, 170401

[Link] [Arxiv]


Seemingly counterintuitive effect for stabilizing nanosystems:

Cooling by heating in nonequilibrium nanosystems

R Härtle, C Schinabeck, M Kulkarni, D Gelbwaser-Klimovsky, M Thoss, U Peskin

Physical Review B 98 (8), 081404

[Link] [Arxiv]


Effective temperatures as a framework for studying non-equilibrium systems:

Non-equilibrium quantum heat machines

R Alicki, D Gelbwaser-Klimovsky

New Journal of Physics 17 (11), 115012

[Link] [Arxiv]


 The title speaks for itself ?

On thermodynamic inconsistencies in several photosynthetic and solar cell models and how to fix them

D Gelbwaser-Klimovsky, A Aspuru-Guzik

Chemical science 8 (2), 1008-1014

[Link] [Arxiv]