Some Trends in Quantum Thermodynamics
von Spakovsky, Michael R.
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Traditional answers to what the 2nd Law is are well known. Some are based on the microstate of a system wandering rapidly through all accessible phase space, while others are based on the idea of a system occupying an initial multitude of states due to the inevitable imperfections of measurements that then effectively, in a coarse grained manner, grow in time (mixing). What has emerged are two somewhat less traditional approaches from which it is said that the 2nd Law emerges, namely, that of the theory of quantum open systems and that of the theory of typicality. These are the two principal approaches, which form the basis of what today has come to be called quantum thermodynamics. However, their dynamics remains strictly linear and unitary, and, as a number of recent publications have emphasized, “testing the unitary propagation of pure states alone cannot rule out a nonlinear propagation of mixtures”. Thus, a non-traditional approach to capturing such a propagation would be one which complements the postulates of QM by the 2nd Law of thermodynamics, resulting in a possibly meaningful, nonlinear dynamics. An unorthodox approach, which does just that, is intrinsic quantum thermodynamics and its mathematical framework, steepest-entropy-ascent quantum thermodynamics. The latter has evolved into an effective tool for modeling the dynamics of reactive and non-reactive systems at atomistic scales. It is the usefulness of this framework in the context of quantum thermodynamics as well as the theory of typicality which are discussed here in some detail. A brief discussion of some other trends such as those related to work, work extraction, and fluctuation theorems is also presented.