Contributions to single-shot energy exchanges in open quantum systems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Research units

  • University of Exeter
  • Loughborough University


The exchange of energy between a classical open system and its environment can be analyzed for a single run of an experiment using the phase-space trajectory of the system. By contrast, in the quantum regime such energy exchange processes must be defined for an ensemble of runs of the same experiment based on the reduced system density matrix. Single-shot approaches based on stochastic wave functions have been proposed for quantum systems that are continuously monitored or weakly coupled to a heat bath. However, for systems strongly coupled to the environment and not continuously monitored, a single-shot analysis has not been attempted because no system wave function exists for such systems within the standard formulation of quantum theory. Using the notion of the conditional wave function of a quantum system, we derive here an exact formula for the rate of total energy change in an open quantum system, valid for arbitrary coupling between the system and the environment. In particular, this allows us to identify three distinct contributions to the total energy flow: an external contribution coming from the explicit time dependence of the Hamiltonian, an interaction contribution associated with the interaction part of the Hamiltonian, and an entanglement contribution, directly related to the presence of entanglement between the system and its environment. Given the close connection between weak values and the conditional wave function, the approach presented here provides a new avenue for experimental studies of energy fluctuations in open quantum systems.


Original languageEnglish
Article number062131
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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