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How To Control Heat Flow With A Magnet?

631 words - 3 pages

In a quirky quantum-mechanical connection, a magnetic field can control the flow of heat across a loop of wire. The heat is carried by quantum waves of electrons, and waves traveling around the loop overlap to bolster or limit the flow depending on the strengths of the magnetic field threading the loop, a pair of physicists predicts in the 15 April PRL. Preliminary experiments confirm the prediction. Curiously, even as electrons shuttle heat across the little device, no electrical current flows through it.For decades, physicists have known that a magnetic field can affect the flow of electricity through a wire that splits and rejoins to form a ring resembling a traffic circle in the middle of a road. Known as the Aharonov-Bohm effect, the phenomenon arises because each electron is described by a quantum wave that splits, so that half of it flows around one side of the ring and half flows around the other side. When the two waves recombine on the far side of the ring they can overlap peak-to-peak to maximize the current, or peak-to-valley to minimize it.How the waves line up depends on the strength of the magnetic field threading the loop. The field shifts the peaks in the waves going around the two halves of the ring by different amounts. Bizarrely, the field can shift the waves even if it is confined to the hole in the ring and does not extend into the metal through which the electrons flow. Thanks to quantum mechanics, the electrons feel the effect of a field that they never travel through.But in some ways electrons also behave like particles, so they can convey energy and, hence, heat, as they rattle from the hotter end to the colder end of a wire. And a magnetic field can affect the heat flow through a wire with a loop in much the same way the field can affect the flow of electricity, calculate Zhigang Jiang and Venkat Chandrasekar of Northwestern...

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