Thermalisation of a quantum system from first principles

Gregoire Ithier, Florent Benaych-Georges

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Why is thermalisation a universal phenomenon? How does a quantum system reach thermodynamical equilibrium? These questions are not new, dating even from the very birth of quantum theory and have been the subject of a renewed interest over the two last decades (see for instance the review in Eisert et al, Nature Physics 2015). In this work, we propose a universal model demonstrating that thermalisation of a small quantum system is an emergent property of the unitary evolution under a Schr\"{o}dinger equation of a larger composite system, whose initial state can be arbitrary. We show that the origin of universality lies in the phenomenon of 'measure concentration', which provides self-averaging properties for the reduced density matrix characterizing the state of the small subsystem. Using our framework, we focus on the asymptotic state at long times and consider its stationary properties. In typical macroscopic conditions, we recover the canonical state and the Boltzmann distribution well known from statistical thermodynamics. This findings lead us to propose an alternative and more general definition of the canonical partition function which also allow us to describe non thermal stationary states.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 14 Oct 2015

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