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Klerk, Albertus de (14. September 2018): Energy Conservation in Open Quantum Systems. Master Thesis, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München


The Lindblad theory of open quantum systems has been successfully applied in various fields ranging from quantum optics, condensed matter physics, and quantum thermodynamics to quantum chemistry. Nevertheless, there are situations where we can compare its predictions to those of exact methods or numerically exact results and find discrepancies between them. One example is the case where a single harmonic oscillator is coupled to a thermal bath of independent harmonic oscillators. In this case, for certain parameters, the exact master equation describes equilibration of the system to a thermal state with a temperature different from the one predicted by the Lindblad master equation. The Lindblad theory, based on a weak coupling between the system and environment as well as the Born-Markov approximation, predicts that the system will evolve to a thermal state whose temperature is equal to the initial temperature of the bath. This result is a consequence of the Born approximation, which supposes that throughout the evolution, the bath only fluctuates around its initial equilibrium state. In this master thesis we study the validity of the Born approximation as well as its consistency with other approximations. By starting from a Hamiltonian for the total system we show that, if the the Born approximation is not invoked, the dynamics of the system is determined by a hierarchy of equations for matrices which can be used to reconstruct the reduced density matrix of the system. This hierarchy approach is fundamentally different from the standard approach, which describes the system dynamics with a weak-coupling master equation, because the hierarchy does not restrict the amount of entanglement possible between the system and the environment. Furthermore, we show how invoking the Born approximation reduces to the usual result and how a generalised ansatz, which we refer to as a generalised Born approximation, reduces the hierarchy to a master equation where the bath temperature is an additional degree of freedom. Finally, we analyse the conservation of the energy of the total system and its relationship to the Markov and secular approximations, and discuss whether imposing it as a condition can fix the time-dependent temperature.