Anti–parity-time symmetry in diffusive systems

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Science  12 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6436, pp. 170-173
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw6259

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Making heat stand still

Dissipative oscillating systems (waves) can be described mathematically in terms of non-Hermitian physics. When parity-time symmetric systems have dissipative components, the interplay between gain and loss can lead to unusual and exotic behavior. Li et al. show theoretically and demonstrate experimentally that such behavior need not be limited to wave systems. Looking at the diffusion of heat, they devised an experimental setup comprising two thermally coupled disks rotating in opposite directions. The thermal energy transported by each disk is strongly coupled to the disk rotating in the opposite direction, providing a return path for the heat wave. For a particular rotation rate, there is an exceptional point where thermal coupling and counterrotating motion balance, resulting in the thermal energy profile being stationary over time.

Science, this issue p. 170


Various concepts related to parity-time symmetry, including anti–parity-time symmetry, have found broad applications in wave physics. Wave systems are fundamentally described by Hermitian operators, whereas their unusual properties are introduced by incorporation of gain and loss. We propose that the related physics need not be restricted to wave dynamics, and we consider systems described by diffusive dynamics. We study the heat transfer in two countermoving media and show that this system exhibits anti–parity-time symmetry. The spontaneous symmetry breaking results in a phase transition from motionless temperature profiles, despite the mechanical motion of the background, to moving temperature profiles. Our results extend the concepts of parity-time symmetry beyond wave physics and may offer opportunities to manipulate heat and mass transport.

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