"Physicists have made a bizarre discovery: the concept of temperature is meaningless in some tiny objects. Although the concept of temperature is known to break down on the scale of individual atoms, research now suggests that it may also fail to apply in rather larger entities, such as carbon nanotubes.What does it mean?
The blossoming field of nanotechnology relies on being able to manipulate materials that are made from just a few thousand atoms. Carbon nanotubes, for example, are tiny cylinders that could be used to make miniature electronic devices.
Ortwin Hess from the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK and colleagues say that if you took the temperature at one end of a 10-micrometre nanotube, it would not necessarily have the same temperature as the other end, no matter how long it was left to reach a thermal equilibrium. Such a nanotube is about as long as a sheet of paper is thick.
'If you're down to a scale where temperature is not relevant, the fluctuations in physical properties of that system could be unpredictable, and that is potentially bad for any device,' says Peter Atkins, a physical chemist at University of Oxford, UK."
"At this size limit, hot spots can sit next to cooler spots, without any energy flowing between the two. Moreover, the temperature of one compartment may fluctuate unpredictably over time. "It all boils down to the quantum uncertainty principle," says Hess."Well, it may play hell with knowing how things will behave when we start constructing quantum computers and the like.