New Paper: Thermodynamics of quantum coherence

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.

The Boring World of Niels Bohr

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The espionage scandals in the news prompts us to revisit how physicists have been under surveillance by the US government, to sometimes hilarious results. During World War II, Niels Bohr (and his son) visited Washington D.C., where they were under secret surveillance. The following declassified report confirms the standard suspicion of quantum physics.

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I type here the relevant part of the report on Niels Bohr:

Both the father and son appear to be extremely absent-minded individuals, engrossed in themselves, and go about paying little attention to any external influences. As they did a great deal of walking, this Agent had occasion to spend considerable time behind them and observe that it was rare when either of them paid much attention to stop lights or signs, but proceeded on their way much the same as if they were walking in the woods. On one occasion, subjects proceeded across a busy intersection against the red light in a diagonal fashion, taking the longest route possible and one of greatest danger. The resourceful work of Agent Maiers in blocking out one half of the stream of automobile traffic with his car prevented their possibly incurring serious injury in this instance.

In conclusion, yes, quantum physicists are very dangerous, but to themselves.

Paper: Vanishing quantum discord is not necessary for completely positive maps

Our paper:

Vanishing quantum discord is not necessary for completely positive maps

The description of the dynamics of a system that may be correlated with its environment is only meaningful within the context of a specific framework. Different frameworks rely upon different assumptions about the initial system-environment state. We reexamine the connections between complete positivity and quantum discord within two different sets of assumptions about the relevant family of initial states. We present an example of a system-environment state with nonvanishing quantum discord that leads to a completely positive map. This invalidates an earlier claim about the necessity of vanishing quantum discord for completely positive maps. In our final remarks, we discuss the physical validity of each approach.

has been published in Physical Review A! This paper challenges some of the main claims of one of the most cited papers in the quantum discord community. We hope this will lead to fruitful discussion on the subject.

Paper: Positivity in the presence of initial system-environment correlation

Our paper Positivity in the presence of initial system-environment correlation has been published in Physical Review A!

The constraints imposed by the initial system-environment correlation can lead to nonpositive dynamical maps. We find the conditions for positivity and complete positivity of such dynamical maps by using the concept of an assignment map. Any initial system-environment correlations make the assignment map nonpositive, while the positivity of the dynamical map depends on the interplay between the assignment map and the system-environment coupling. We show how this interplay can reveal or hide the nonpositivity of the assignment map. We discuss the role of this interplay in Markovian models.