The bizarre microscopic quantum world is exemplified by Schrödinger’s cat, where a quantum mechanical “cat” state is said to be both death and alive simultaneously. This non-classical state is called a quantum coherence. Coherence is at odds with macroscopic realism. Our experience is dominated by thermodynamics, which destroys quantum coherences at our length and time scales.
We decided to study the reverse situation: In the microscopic world, can quantum coherence affect thermodynamics? We have posted a new manuscript titled “Thermodynamics of quantum coherence“.
Thermodynamics of quantum coherence [arXiv:1308.1245]
César A. Rodríguez-Rosario, Thomas Frauenheim, Alán Aspuru-Guzik
Quantum decoherence is seen as an undesired source of irreversibility that destroys quantum resources. Quantum coherences seem to be a property that vanishes at thermodynamic equilibrium. Away from equilibrium, quantum coherences challenge the classical notions of a thermodynamic bath in a Carnot engines, affect the efficiency of quantum transport, lead to violations of Fourier’s law, and can be used to dynamically control the temperature of a state. However, the role of quantum coherence in thermodynamics is not fully understood. Here we show that the relative entropy of a state with quantum coherence with respect to its decohered state captures its deviation from thermodynamic equilibrium. As a result, changes in quantum coherence can lead to a heat flow with no associated temperature, and affect the entropy production rate. From this, we derive a quantum version of the Onsager reciprocal relations that shows that there is a reciprocal relation between thermodynamic forces from coherence and quantum transport. Quantum decoherence can be useful and offers new possibilities of thermodynamic control for quantum transport.
In this paper, we showed that quantum coherences are useful in thermodynamics in an exactly reciprocal manner to the way thermodynamics destroys coherences. This theory suggest that this interplay can lead to improved molecular devices, and to a deeper understanding of energy transport in photosynthesis.The main results of this paper include a generalization of the laws of thermodynamics and of the Onsager reciprocal relations for the quantum regime. These allowed us to interpret quantum coherences as a new thermodynamic resource. This new theory provides a framework to unify previous results on quantum Carnot engines , thermal control by quantum measurements, quantum coherences in photosynthetic complexes and transport in molecular devices.