Measurement of irreversible entropy production in mesoscopic quantum systems out of equilibrium

Author(s): M. Brunelli, L. Fusco, R. Landig, W. Wieczorek, J. Hoelscher-Obermeier, G. Landi, F. Semião, A. Ferraro, N. Kiesel, T. Donner, G.De Chiara, M. Paternostro

arXiv:1602.06958 [quant-ph]

Link: Link to publication


Every finite-time transformation results in some production of entropy, which signals the occurrence of irreversibility. Quantifying the amount of irreversible entropy produced is a goal of paramount importance: it is a key quantity for the characterisation of non-equilibrium processes, and its minimisation improves the efficiency of thermal machines. So far, nanoscale systems have been used for the experimental study of classical out-of-equilibrium thermodynamics. However, irreversible entropy production arising from quantum dynamics in mesoscopic quantum systems has not been experimentally investigated yet. In this work we measure the rate of entropy produced by an open quantum system in a non-equilibrium steady state for two different experimental setups: a micro-mechanical resonator and a Bose-Einstein condensate. Each of them is coupled to a high finesse cavity and hence subject also to optical losses. We find excellent agreement between the experimental data and the predictions of a framework that we develop for the open dynamics of coupled quantum harmonic oscillators. Key features of our setups, such as the cooling of the mechanical resonator and signatures of a structural quantum phase transition in the condensate are reflected in the entropy production rates. Our work demonstrates the possibility to explore non-equilibrium thermodynamics in driven mesoscopic quantum systems, and paves the way to a systematic experimental assessment of the implications of out-of-equilibrium processes on such systems.

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