Efficiency and large deviations in time-asymmetric stochastic heat engines

Todd Gingrich*, Grant M. Rotskoff, Suriyanarayanan Vaikuntanathan, Phillip L. Geissler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


In a stochastic heat engine driven by a cyclic non-equilibrium protocol, fluctuations in work and heat give rise to a fluctuating efficiency. Using computer simulations and tools from large deviation theory, we have examined these fluctuations in detail for a model two-state engine. We find in general that the form of efficiency probability distributions is similar to those described by Verley et al (2014 Nat. Commun. 5 4721), in particular featuring a local minimum in the long-time limit. In contrast to the time-symmetric engine protocols studied previously, however, this minimum need not occur at the value characteristic of a reversible Carnot engine. Furthermore, while the local minimum may reside at the global minimum of a large deviation rate function, it does not generally correspond to the least likely efficiency measured over finite time. We introduce a general approximation for the finite-time efficiency distribution, , based on large deviation statistics of work and heat, that remains very accurate even when deviates significantly from its large deviation form.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102003
JournalNew Journal of Physics
StatePublished - Oct 24 2014


  • Large deviations in non-equilibrium systems
  • Molecular motors
  • Non-equilibrium fluctuations in small systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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