Nonequilibrium quantum free energy and effective temperature, generating functional, and influence action

Jen Tsung Hsiang, Bei Lok Hu

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8 Scopus citations


A definition of nonequilibrium free energy Fs is proposed for dynamical Gaussian quantum open systems strongly coupled to a heat bath and the formal relation with the generating functional, the coarse-grained effective action and the influence action is indicated. For Gaussian open quantum systems exemplified by the quantum Brownian motion model studied here, a time-varying effective temperature can be introduced in a natural way, and, with it, the nonequilibrium free energy Fs, von Neumann entropy SvN and internal energy Us of the reduced system (S) can be defined accordingly. In contrast to the nonequilibrium free energy found in the literature which references the bath temperature, the nonequilibrium thermodynamic functions we find here obey the familiar relation Fs(t)=Us(t)-TEFF(t)SvN(t) at any and all moments of time in the system's fully nonequilibrium evolution history. After the system equilibrates they coincide, in the weak coupling limit, with their counterparts in conventional equilibrium thermodynamics. Since the effective temperature captures both the state of the system and its interaction with the bath, upon the system's equilibration, it approaches a value slightly higher than the initial bath temperature. Notably, it remains nonzero for a zero-temperature bath, signaling the existence of system-bath entanglement. Reasonably, at high bath temperatures and under ultraweak couplings, it becomes indistinguishable from the bath temperature. The nonequilibrium thermodynamic functions and relations discovered here for dynamical Gaussian quantum systems should open up useful pathways toward establishing meaningful theories of nonequilibrium quantum thermodynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number065001
JournalPhysical Review D
Issue number6
StatePublished - 4 Mar 2021


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