Autonomous quantum clocks: how thermodynamics limits our ability to measure time

Author(s): P. Erker, M. T. Mitchinson, R. Silva, M. P. Woods, N. Brunner, M. Huber

arXiv:1609.06704 [quant-ph]

Link: Link to publication


We discuss the fundamental limitations and resources for measuring time. A prerequisite for any system to function as a clock is it being out of equilibrium. We thus introduce the concept of autonomous quantum clocks using only the minimal out-of-equilibrium resources, i.e. two thermal baths at different temperatures. We find a fundamental trade-off between the amount of heat dissipated and the performance of the clock in terms of accuracy and resolution. We present both universal arguments as well as a detailed simulation illustrating these behaviors. This shows that the amount of entropy increase according to the second law is a resource for timekeeping.