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If we consider the theoretical maximum of COP for a heat pump, we will see that it is possible to make it infinite by approaching the temperatures of each source to each other. Yet, in a real engine we cannot get much higher COP's with this approach... Why does this actually happen?

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  • $\begingroup$ Um...a heat pump pumping between reservoirs whose temperature difference is on the order of milliKelvin would be rather useless, wouldn't it? $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Mar 30 '15 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, it would be useless indeed, but what I wonder is why the real COP doesn't grow a bit with the theoretical COP. $\endgroup$ – blackhole1511 Mar 30 '15 at 21:46
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Simply put - there are always losses in a heat engine. For example, if you have a piston, there is some friction which means a certain amount of energy lost "per stroke". As you reduce the amount of heat that you can transfer per stroke, this loss becomes the dominant term. So although you might win in terms of entropy of the working fluid (because of the small $\Delta T$) you lose in fixed terms.

This will get you to some optimum - but it's certainly not infinite.

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  • $\begingroup$ Now that really makes sense. Thank you very much :) $\endgroup$ – blackhole1511 Mar 31 '15 at 0:16

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