Sebastian Deffner
Nonequilibrium entropy production in open and closed quantum systems
Supervisor: Dr. Eric Lutz [Theoretical physics I]
Date of oral examination: 02/07/2011
145 pages, english , OPUS
Thermodynamics is a phenomenological theory describing the energy conversion of work and heat. At its origins thermodynamics was developed in order to understand and improve heat engines. In conventional thermodynamics, however, only such processes are completely describable which are slow enough to keep the system of interest in an equilibrium state with its thermal environment at all times. On the contrary, all real physical processes are accompanied by non-equilibrium phenomena. These are mathematically described with the help of the irreversible entropy production, i.e. the dissipated work divided by the temperature of the bath. The second law of thermodynamics merely states that the irreversible entropy production is on average always positive. The modern trend of miniaturization, however, leads to smaller and smaller devices. On short length scales thermal noise as well as quantum fluctuations become important. Thus, usual thermodynamic quantities as work and heat acquire stochastic nature. Moreover, in the quantum regime a completely new theory had to be invented, since classical notions of work and heat are no longer valid. The present dissertation contributes to this prevailing field by the derivation of analytical expressions for the entropy production in open and closed quantum system far from thermal equilibrium. The theoretical treatment is motivated by an experimental point of view. The obtained results were derived from the reduced dynamics of the quantum mechanical system, which may be coupled to a thermal bath. To this end, it was dealt with methods and approaches of statistical physics, conventional thermodynamics, quantum information theory and the theory of open quantum systems. In this dissertation the most important physical systems are treated. First, an isolated system is considered before later on a heat bath is included. The limit of weak as well as of strong coupling are analyzed in detail. For isolated systems it turns out that a geometric approach is able to capture the thermodynamic properties, completely. To this end, the irreversible entropy production is sharply estimated from below by the angle between the real non-equilibrium state and the corresponding equilibrium one. Further, it is shown that the Heisenberg uncertainty relation for energy and time can be formulated more precisely in terms of that angle. As experimental system cold ion traps are introduced, in which the theoretical predictions can be verified. For weakly coupled systems, then, the irreversible entropy production is identified and a fluctuation theorem is derived by merely thermodynamic arguments. As experimental system we, again, propose the cold ion traps, where the heat bath can be simulated with the help of LASER light. In the limit of strong coupling a semiclassical description of the reduced quantum system is discussed. Again, an analytically exact expression for the entropy production and the corresponding fluctuation theorem is derived. A physical system, in which strong coupling to the environment can be analyzed, is given by Josephson junctions. This dissertation discusses the entropy production for isolated, weakly coupled, and overdamped quantum systems. For these physical regimes analytical relation are derived and experimental systems proposed, with which the predictions can be verified.