Quantum Thermodynamic Uncertainties in Nonequilibrium Systems from Robertson-Schrödinger Relations

Hang Dong, Daniel Reiche, Jen Tsung Hsiang, Bei Lok Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thermodynamic uncertainty principles make up one of the few rare anchors in the largely uncharted waters of nonequilibrium systems, the fluctuation theorems being the more familiar. In this work we aim to trace the uncertainties of thermodynamic quantities in nonequilibrium systems to their quantum origins, namely, to the quantum uncertainty principles. Our results enable us to make this categorical statement: For Gaussian systems, thermodynamic functions are functionals of the Robertson-Schrödinger uncertainty function, which is always non-negative for quantum systems, but not necessarily so for classical systems. Here, quantum refers to noncommutativity of the canonical operator pairs. From the nonequilibrium free energy, we succeeded in deriving several inequalities between certain thermodynamic quantities. They assume the same forms as those in conventional thermodynamics, but these are nonequilibrium in nature and they hold for all times and at strong coupling. In addition we show that a fluctuation-dissipation inequality exists at all times in the nonequilibrium dynamics of the system. For nonequilibrium systems which relax to an equilibrium state at late times, this fluctuation-dissipation inequality leads to the Robertson-Schrödinger uncertainty principle with the help of the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality. This work provides the microscopic quantum basis to certain important thermodynamic properties of macroscopic nonequilibrium systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number870
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Robertson-Schrödinger uncertainty principle
  • nonequilibrium partition function
  • nonequilibrium quantum thermodynamics
  • quantum thermodynamic uncertainties


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