In the summer of 2016, physicists gathered in Torun, Poland for the 48th annual Symposium on Mathematical Physics. This Symposium was special; it celebrated the 40th anniversary of the discovery of the Gorini-Kossakowski-Sudarshan-Lindblad master equation, which is widely used in quantum physics and quantum chemistry. This article forms part of a Special Volume of the journal Open Systems & Information Dynamics arising from that conference; and it aims to celebrate a related discovery -- also by Sudarshan -- that of Quantum Maps (which had their 55th anniversary in the same year). Nowadays, much like the master equation, quantum maps are ubiquitous in physics and chemistry. Their importance in quantum information and related fields cannot be overstated. In this manuscript, we motivate quantum maps from a tomographic perspective, and derive their well-known representations. We then dive into the murky world beyond these maps, where recent research has yielded their generalisation to non-Markovian quantum processes.
Memory effects in open quantum dynamics are often incorporated in a system's equation of motion through a superoperator known as the memory kernel. Knowledge of this superoperator allows for the exact prediction of the system's evolution. However, the usual prescription for determining the memory kernel requires information about the underlying system-environment dynamics. Here, we demonstrate a fundamental connection between dynamical maps that can be determined from the evolution of the system alone and a memory kernel master equation. In doing so, we derive transfer tensors for general open dynamics, leading to the possibility for experimental reconstruction of the memory kernel and efficient numerical simulation of driven systems with initial correlations.
Can collective quantum effects make a difference in a meaningful thermodynamic operation? Focusing on energy storage and batteries, we demonstrate that quantum mechanics can lead to an enhancement in the amount of work deposited per unit time, i.e., the charging power, when $N$ batteries are charged collectively. We first derive analytic upper bounds for the collective \emphquantum advantage in charging power for two choices of constraints on the charging Hamiltonian. We then highlight the importance of entanglement by proving that the quantum advantage vanishes when the collective state of the batteries is restricted to be in the separable ball. Finally, we provide an upper bound to the achievable quantum advantage when the interaction order is restricted, i.e., at most $k$ batteries are interacting. Our result is a fundamental limit on the advantage offered by quantum technologies over their classical counterparts as far as energy deposition is concerned.
We study how single- and double-slit interference patterns fall in the presence of gravity. First, we demonstrate that universality of free fall still holds in this case, i.e., interference patterns fall just like classical objects. Next, we explore lowest order relativistic effects in the Newtonian regime by employing a recent quantum formalism which treats mass as an operator. This leads to interactions between non-degenerate internal degrees of freedom (like spin in an external magnetic field) and external degrees of freedom (like position). Based on these effects, we present an unusual phenomenon, in which a falling double slit interference pattern periodically decoheres and recoheres. The oscillations in the visibility of this interference occur due to correlations built up between spin and position. Finally, we connect the interference visibility revivals with non-Markovian quantum dynamics.
The dynamics of an open quantum system can be fully described and tomographically reconstructed if the experimenter has complete control over the system of interest. Most real-world experiments do not fulfill this assumption, and the amount of control is restricted by the experimental set-up. That is, the set of performable manipulations of the system is limited. For instance, imagine a set-up where unitary operations are easy to make, but only one measurement at the end of the experiment is allowed. In this paper, we provide a general reconstruction scheme that yields operationally well-defined dynamics for any conceivable kind of experimental situation. If one additional operation can be performed, these `restricted' dynamics allow for the construction of witnesses for initial correlations and the presence of memory effects. We demonstrate the applicability of our framework for the the two important cases where the set of performable operations comprises only unitary operations or projective measurement, respectively, and show that it provides a powerful tool for the description of quantum control experiments.
A non-Markovian process is one that retains 'memory' of its past. A systematic understanding of these processes is necessary to fully describe and harness a vast range of complex phenomena; however, no such general characterisation currently exists. This long-standing problem has hindered advances in understanding physical, chemical and biological processes, where often dubious theoretical assumptions are made to render a dynamical description tractable. Moreover, the methods commonly used to treat non-Markovian quantum dynamics are plagued with unphysical results, like non-positive dynamics. Here we develop an operational framework to characterise arbitrary non-Markovian quantum processes. We demonstrate the universality of our framework and how the characterisation can be rendered efficient, before formulating a necessary and sufficient condition for quantum Markov processes. Finally, we stress how our framework enables the actual systematic analysis of non-Markovian processes, the understanding of their typicality, and the development of new master equations for the effective description of memory-bearing open-system evolution.
We propose a simple experimental test of the quantum equivalence principle introduced by Zych and Brukner [arXiv:1502.00971], which generalises the Einstein equivalence principle to superpositions of internal energy states. We consider a harmonically-trapped spin-$\frac12$ atom in the presence of both gravity and an external magnetic field and show that when the external magnetic field is suddenly switched off, various violations of the equivalence principle would manifest as otherwise forbidden transitions. Performing such an experiment would put bounds on the various phenomenological violating parameters. We further demonstrate that the classical weak equivalence principle can be tested by suddenly putting the apparatus into free fall, effectively 'switching off' gravity.
In a generalised framework for the Landauer erasure protocol, we study bounds on the heat dissipated in typical nonequilibrium quantum processes. In contrast to thermodynamic processes, quantum fluctuations are not suppressed in the nonequilibrium regime and cannot be ignored, making such processes difficult to understand and treat. Here, we derive an emergent fluctuation relation that virtually guarantees the average heat produced to be dissipated into the reservoir when either the system or reservoir is large (or both), or when the temperature is high. The implication of our result is that second law-like behaviour appears for nonequilibrium processes exponentially quickly in the dimension of the larger subsystem and linearly in the inverse temperature. We achieve these results by generalising a concentration of measure relation for subsystem states to the case where the global state is mixed.
We give strong evidence that divisibility of qubit quantum processes implies temporal Tsirelson's bound. We also give strong evidence that the classical bound of the temporal Bell's inequality holds for dynamics that can be described by entanglement-breaking channels---a more general class of dynamics than that allowed by classical physics.
Complex mesoscopic systems play increasingly important roles in modern science -- from understanding biological functions at the molecular level, to designing solid-state information processing devices. The operation of these systems typically depends on their energetic structure, yet probing their energy-landscape can be extremely challenging; they have many degrees of freedom, which may be hard to isolate and measure independently. Here we show that a qubit (a two-level quantum system) with a biased energy-splitting can directly probe the spectral properties of a complex system, without knowledge of how they couple. Our work is based on the completely-positive and trace-preserving map formalism, which treats any unknown dynamics as a `black-box' process. This black box contains information about the system with which the probe interacts, which we access by measuring the survival probability of the initial state of the probe as function of the energy-splitting and the process time. Fourier transforming the results yields the energy spectrum of the complex system. Without making assumptions about the strength or form of its coupling, our probe could determine aspects of a complex molecule's energy landscape as well as, in many cases, test for coherent superposition of its energy eigenstates.
Motivated by a proposed olfactory mechanism based on a vibrationally-activated molecular switch, we study electron transport within a donor-acceptor pair that is coupled to a vibrational mode and embedded in a surrounding environment. We derive a polaron master equation with which we study the dynamics of both the electronic and vibrational degrees of freedom beyond previously employed semiclassical (Marcus-Jortner) rate analyses. We show: (i) that in the absence of explicit dissipation of the vibrational mode, the semiclassical approach is generally unable to capture the dynamics predicted by our master equation due to both its assumption of one-way (exponential) electron transfer from donor to acceptor and its neglect of the spectral details of the environment; (ii) that by additionally allowing strong dissipation to act on the odorant vibrational mode we can recover exponential electron transfer, though typically at a rate that differs from that given by the Marcus-Jortner expression; (iii) that the ability of the molecular switch to discriminate between the presence and absence of the odorant, and its sensitivity to the odorant vibrational frequency, are enhanced significantly in this strong dissipation regime, when compared to the case without mode dissipation; and (iv) that details of the environment absent from previous Marcus-Jortner analyses can also dramatically alter the sensitivity of the molecular switch, in particular allowing its frequency resolution to be improved. Our results thus demonstrate the constructive role dissipation can play in facilitating sensitive and selective operation in molecular switch devices, as well as the inadequacy of semiclassical rate equations in analysing such behaviour over a wide range of parameters.
Unitary transformations can allow one to study open quantum systems in situations for which standard, weak-coupling type approximations are not valid. We develop here an extension of the variational (polaron) transformation approach to open system dynamics, which applies to arbitrarily large exciton transport networks with local environments. After deriving a time-local master equation in the transformed frame, we go on to compare the population dynamics predicted using our technique with other established master equations. The variational frame dynamics are found to agree with both weak coupling and full polaron master equations in their respective regions of validity. In parameter regimes considered difficult for these methods, the dynamics predicted by our technique are found to interpolate between the two. The variational method thus gives insight, across a broad range of parameters, into the competition between coherent and incoherent processes in determining the dynamical behaviour of energy transfer networks.
It is well known that a quantum correlated probe can yield better precision in estimating an unknown parameter than classically possible. However, how such a quantum probe should be measured remains somewhat elusive. We examine the role of measurements in quantum metrology by considering two types of readout strategies: coherent, where all probes are measured simultaneously in an entangled basis; and adaptive, where probes are measured sequentially, with each measurement one way conditioned on the prior outcomes. Here we firstly show that for classically correlated probes the two readout strategies yield the same precision. Secondly, we construct an example of a noisy multipartite quantum system where coherent readout yields considerably better precision than adaptive readout. This highlights a fundamental difference between classical and quantum parameter estimation. From the practical point of view, our findings are relevant for the optimal design of precision-measurement quantum devices.
Today's most popular techniques for accurately calculating the dynamics of the reduced density operator in an open quantum system, either require, or gain great computational benefits, from representing the bath response function a(t) in the form a(t)=\Sigma_k^K p_k e^O_k t . For some of these techniques, the number of terms in the series K plays the lead role in the computational cost of the calculation, and is therefore often a limiting factor in simulating open quantum system dynamics. We present an open source MATLAB program called BATHFIT 1, whose input is any spectral distribution functions J(w) or bath response function, and whose output attempts to be the set of parameters p_k,w_k_k=1^K such that for a given value of K, the series \Sigma_k^k p_k e^O_k t is as close as possible to a(t). This should allow the user to represent a(t) as accurately as possible with as few parameters as possible. The program executes non-linear least squares fitting, and for a very wide variety of spectral distribution functions, competent starting parameters are used for these fits. For most forms of J(w), these starting parameters, and the exact a(t) corresponding to the given J(w), are calculated using the recent Pade decomposition technique - therefore this program can also be used to merely implement the Pade decomposition for these spectral distribution functions; and it can also be used just to efficiently and accurately calculate a(t) for any given J(w) . The program also gives the J(w) corresponding to a given a(t), which may allow one to assess the quality (in the w-domain) of a representation of a(t) being used. Finally, the program can calculate the discretized influence functional coefficients for any J(w), and this is computed very efficiently for most forms of J(w) by implementing the recent technique published in [Quantum Physics Letters (2012) 1 (1) pg. 35].
Fully analytic formulas, which do not involve any numerical integration, are derived for the discretized influence functionals of a very extensive assortment of spectral distributions. For Feynman integrals derived using the Trotter splitting and Strang splitting, we present general formulas for the discretized influence functionals in terms of proper integrals of the bath response function. When an analytic expression exists for the bath response function, these integrals can almost always be evaluated analytically. In cases where these proper integrals cannot be integrated analytically, numerically computing them is much faster and less error-prone than calculating the discretized influence functionals in the traditional way, which involves numerically calculating integrals whose bounds are both infinite. As an example, we present the analytic discretized influence functional for a bath response function of the form \alpha(t)=\sum_j^Kp_je^\Omega_jt, which is a natural form for many spectral distribution functions (including the very popular Lorentz-Drude/Debye function), and for other spectral distribution functions it is a form that is easily obtainable by a least-squares fit . Evaluating our analytic formulas for this example case is much faster and easier to implement than numerically calculating the discretized influence funcitonal in the traditional way. In the appendix we provide analytic expressions for p_j and \Omega_j for a variety of spectral distribution forms, and as a second example we provide the analytic bath response function and analytic influence functionals for spectral distributions of the form J(\omega)∝\omega^se^-(\omega/\omega_c)^q. The value of the analytic expression for this bath response function extends beyond its use for calculating Feynman integrals.