Non-Markovian Dynamics of Open Quantum Systems

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link






An open quantum system is a quantum system that interacts with some environment whose degrees of freedom have been coarse grained away. This model describes non-equilibrium processes more general than scattering-matrix formulations. Furthermore, the microscopically-derived environment provides a model of noise, dissipation and decoherence far more general than Markovian (white noise) models. The latter are fully characterized by Lindblad equations and can be motivated phenomenologically. Non-Markovian processes consistently account for backreaction with the environment and can incorporate effects such as finite temperature and spatial correlations.

We consider linear systems with bilinear coupling to the environment, or quantum Brownian motion, and nonlinear systems with weak coupling to the environment. For linear systems we provide exact solutions with analytical results for a variety of spectral densities. Furthermore, we point out an important mathematical subtlety which led to incorrect master-equation coefficients in earlier derivations, given nonlocal dissipation. For nonlinear systems we provide perturbative solutions by translating the formalism of canonical perturbation theory into the context of master equations. It is shown that unavoidable degeneracy causes an unfortunate reduction in accuracy between perturbative master equations and their solutions. We also extend the famous theorem of Lindblad, Gorini, Kossakowski and Sudarshan on completely positivity to non-Markovian master equations.

Our application is primarily to model atoms interacting via a common electromagnetic field. The electromagnetic field contains correlations in both space and time, which are related to its relativistic (photon-mediated) nature.

As such, atoms residing in the same field experience different environmental effects depending upon their relative position and orientation. Our more accurate solutions were necessary to assess sudden death of entanglement at zero temperature. In contrast to previous claims, we found that all initial states of two-level atoms undergo finite-time disentanglement. We were also able to access regimes which cannot be described by Lindblad equations and other simpler methods, such as near resonance.

Finally we revisit the infamous Abraham-Lorentz force, wherein a single particle in motion experiences backreaction from the electromagnetic field. This leads to a number of well-known problems including pre-acceleration and runaway solutions. We found a more a more-suitable open-system treatment of the nonrelativistic particle to be perfectly causal and dissipative without any extraneous requirements for finite size of the particle, weak coupling to the field, etc..