© 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd. An autonomous quantum thermal machine comprising a trapped atom or ion placed inside an optical cavity is proposed and analysed. Such a machine can operate as a heat engine whose working medium is the quantised atomic motion or as an absorption refrigerator that cools without any work input. Focusing on the refrigerator mode, we predict that it is possible with state-of-the-art technology to cool a trapped ion almost to its motional ground state using a thermal light source such as sunlight. Wenonetheless find that a laser or a similar reference system is necessary to stabilise the cavity frequencies. Furthermore, we establish a direct and heretofore unacknowledged connection between the abstract theory of quantum absorption refrigerators and practical sideband cooling techniques. Wealso highlight and clarify some assumptions underlying several recent theoretical studies on selfcontained quantum engines and refrigerators. Our work indicates that cavity quantum electrodynamics is a promising and versatile experimental platform for the study of autonomous thermal machines in the quantum domain.
- Cavity quantum electrodynamics
- Quantum absorption refrigerator
- Quantum thermodynamics
- Sideband cooling