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Classical engines with ideal efficiency and nonzero power: is it possible?

  • Date: May 17, 2017, 13:15

  • Venue: Wrocław University of Technology, building A-1, room 320a

Academia Europaea Wrocław Knowledge Hub and Wrocław University of Technology invite students, academic teachers and citizens of Wrocław for a lecture by Prof. J. O. Indekeu on Classical engines with ideal efficiency and nonzero power: is it possible?

Short outline of the lecture:

A classical engine with ideal efficiency (unity for a chemical engine and Carnot for a thermal one) has zero power because a reversible cycle lasts infinitely long. However, at least from a theoretical point of view, it is possible to conceive (irreversible) engines with nonzero power that can reach ideal efficiency. Our way to do this is by replacing the usual linear transport law by a sublinear one and taking the step-function limit for the particle current (chemical engine) or heat current (thermal engine) versus the applied force. We speculate on the physical motivation for a sublinear law and a step-function law in the context of criticality and first-order phase transitions, respectively. Quantum engines are also relevant in this context but will not be discussed in this talk.


Joseph Octave Indekeu, who in 2013 was awarded a Belgian Academy Prize for Science Outreach, was Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at KU Leuven from 2011 until 2015 ( This Department consists of 7 Research Units: Soft matter and biophysics, Nuclear physics and radiation, Semiconductor physics, Solid state physics and magnetism, Astronomy, Theoretical physics and Physics education. In the Department work 35 professors, 130 PhD students, 90 Postdocs, 50 administrative and technical staff. The Department has enjoyed an excellent research visitation in 2011 by an international panel of experts.

While being actively involved, as a leader, in maintaining throughout his Department the highest standards of research, teaching and services to university and society, Joseph Octave Indekeu’s personal activities are centered around research in theoretical statistical physics, with his team (, teaching general physics and quantum physics, and popularizing science by designing and performing in a physics cabaret, together with his children (

Joseph Octave Indekeu’s international profile is very well balanced and has enabled him to establish a network of colleagues and collaborators who aim at highly original and pioneering contributions to science. After postdoctoral years at MIT, TU Delft and RU Leiden, and shorter stays in Padova, Bristol and Oxford, he developed various seminal lines of research in wetting phenomena and interfacial critical phenomena. This has, in particular, led to a novel view on surface superconductivity, which has led to the prediction of an interface delocalization (or „wetting”) phase transition in type-I superconductors. This prediction has recently been verified experimentally. Furthermore, in 2013 Indekeu co-investigated, with researchers of Imec, wetting states in nanopatterned silicon (published in ACS NANO), which has numerous applications since reliable wet cleaning of nanopatterned Si wafers is an extremely important issue in modern technology.