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The resource theory of quantum thermodynamics

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Title: The resource theory of quantum thermodynamics
Authors: Lostaglio, Matteo
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: Planck found, when attempting to describe the way in which hot bodies glow, that energy at microscopic scales often comes in discrete chunks. Thus began the long and intimate relationship between the field of thermodynamics, which explores our ability to manipulate heat and other energy transfers between macroscopic systems, and quantum mechanics, which explains the dynamics of individual microscopic systems. Even as both our technology and our theoretical investigations have extended to ever-smaller devices, our understanding of quantum effects on thermodynamics has remained almost exclusively limited to the quantized nature of energy. There is much more, however, to quantum theory than energy quantization. In this thesis we focus on the property of quantum coherence, the ability of quantum systems to emulate Schrodinger’s cat and somehow be neither dead nor alive, but something completely different altogether. We provide a simple and elegant formulation for the processing of coherence in thermodynamics, relying on the fact that thermodynamical processes possess an underlying time-translation symmetry. This fact allows us to quantify the ways in which coherence can play an active role, facilitating otherwise impossible thermodynamic transformations. We argue that coherence should be thought of as a distinctly quantum-mechanical thermodynamic resource. By considering an isolated quantum system connected, for some period of time, to a thermal bath, we give fundamental limitations on how coherence can be irreversibly manipulated. These limitations are related to those dictated on energy transfer by the second law of thermodynamics. Others topics that are investigated here is what is the role of correlations at the smallest scales and the conversion of quantum coherence into work. It has long been appreciated that thermodynamics is subtly interlinked with the notion of information. This work provides evidence that, to apply the laws of thermodynamics to the smallest systems around us, we must develop deeper insights into the nature of quantum information.
Content Version: Open Access
Issue Date: Aug-2016
Date Awarded: Dec-2016
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/43760
DOI: https://doi.org/10.25560/43760
Supervisor: Jennings, David
Rudolph, Terry
Guadalupe Santos Lins Brandao, Fernando
Sponsor/Funder: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Department: Physics
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Physics PhD theses

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