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My research


Broad scientific interests

I am interested in all areas of quantum information theory, with a particular emphasis on resource theories and open dynamics.


Current focus

At the moment I am mostly focusing on various approaches to capture the notions of reversibility and irreversibility in the quantum regime, and thus my work revolves around information-theoretic ways to describe the second law of thermodynamics. This includes investigating the problem of state interconversion under constrained dynamics (especially in the non-asymptotic regime), studying structural differences between classical stochastic dynamics and open quantum dynamics, and understanding the role of memory in dissipation processes. Besides these topics, I am also working on designing optimal classical algorithms for the simulation of quantum circuits.


Areas of research

(To see a full list of publications and presentations in a chronological order check my Scientific CV)


When speaking of thermodynamics one inevitably thinks of concepts such as heat flows, thermal machines and pressure, which seem to be far removed from the ideas of quantum information theory. However, on a more abstract level, thermodynamics can be seen as a field studying the accessibility/inaccessibility of one physical state from another. The first and second laws of thermodynamics are fundamental constraints on state transformations, forcing thermodynamic processes to conserve the overall energy and forbidding free conversion of heat into work. Hence, the resource-theoretic machinery originally developed to study entanglement is also perfectly suited to shed light on thermodynamics.

In my research I mostly focus on the role that superposition principle plays in thermodynamic considerations. More precisely, I am interested in thermodynamic limitations on processing quantum coherence, the way it affects the thermodynamic arrow of time and the possibility of exploiting coherence to enhance the performance of heat engines. These foundational questions may be of interest for future advancements in nanotechnology, as interference effects are particularly relevant at scales we are increasingly able to control. Recently I am also interested in the problem of thermodynamic (and general resource-theoretic) transformations of finite-size systems, and in particular the effect this non-asymptotic regime has on reversible transformations.

− Publications

  • Avoiding irreversibility: resonant conversion of quantum resources
    Christopher T. Chubb, Marco Tomamichel, Kamil Korzekwa
    In preparation

  • Beyond the thermodynamic limit: finite-size corrections to state interconversion rates
    Christopher T. Chubb, Marco Tomamichel, Kamil Korzekwa
    arXiv:1711.01193

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    + Abstract

    + Popular Summary

    Abstract: Thermodynamics is traditionally constrained to the study of macroscopic systems whose energy fluctuations are negligible compared to their average energy. Here, we push beyond this thermodynamic limit by developing a mathematical framework to rigorously address the problem of thermodynamic transformations of finite-size systems. More formally, we analyse state interconversion under thermal operations and between arbitrary energy-incoherent states. We find precise relations between the optimal rate at which interconversion can take place and the desired infidelity of the final state when the system size is sufficiently large. These so-called second-order asymptotics provide a bridge between the extreme cases of single-shot thermodynamics and the asymptotic limit of infinitely large systems. We illustrate the utility of our results with several examples. We first show how thermodynamic cycles are affected by irreversibility due to finite-size effects. We then provide a precise expression for the gap between the distillable work and work of formation that opens away from the thermodynamic limit. Finally, we explain how the performance of a heat engine gets affected when one of the heat baths it operates between is finite. We find that while perfect work cannot generally be extracted at Carnot efficiency, there are conditions under which these finite-size effects vanish. In deriving our results we also clarify relations between different notions of approximate majorisation.

    Popular summary: Thermodynamics is one of the most versatile physical theories, finding applications in almost all fields of science, from cosmology and astrophysics to chemistry and the theory of computation. Its strength comes from the fact that it provides a universal framework that uses statistical tools to study physical phenomena in the so-called thermodynamic limit, i.e., when the number of involved systems is very large. However, our increasing ability to manipulate and control systems at smaller and smaller scales allows us to build novel nanodevices operating well beyond the thermodynamic limit. Therefore, in order to understand the thermodynamic properties of such devices, we need to formulate a theory that is not constrained to the study of macroscopic systems. In this paper we achieve this by developing an information-theoretic framework describing thermodynamic transformations of finite-size systems. One immediate application of our theoretical results is to the study of irreversible processes in the nanoscale regime. In particular, we show how the amount of ordered energy needed to drive a small system out of equilibrium is larger than the amount one could obtain in a reverse process. This affects reversibility of thermodynamic cycles and, in turn, deteriorates performance of nanoengines. Despite these negative finite-size effects, we find that in specially engineered conditions nanoscale engines can still achieve the ultimate limit of efficiency. Our results expand the realm of applicability of thermodynamics beyond the constraint of macroscopic systems, and thus provide new tools to study the universe at the smallest scale.

  • Structure of the thermodynamic arrow of time in classical and quantum theories
    Kamil Korzekwa
    Phys. Rev. A 95, 052318 (2017)

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    + Abstract

    Abstract: In this work we analyse the structure of the thermodynamic arrow of time, defined by transformations that leave the thermal equilibrium state unchanged, in classical (incoherent) and quantum (coherent) regimes. We note that in the infinite-temperature limit the thermodynamic ordering of states in both regimes exhibits a lattice structure. This means that when energy does not matter and the only thermodynamic resource is given by information, the thermodynamic arrow of time has a very specific structure. Namely, for any two states at present there exists a unique state in the past consistent with them and with all possible joint pasts. Similarly, there also exists a unique state in the future consistent with those states and with all possible joint futures. We also show that the lattice structure in the classical regime is broken at finite temperatures, i.e., when energy is a relevant thermodynamic resource. Surprisingly, however, we prove that in the simplest quantum scenario of a two-dimensional system, this structure is preserved at finite temperatures. We provide the physical interpretation of these results by introducing and analysing the history erasure process, and point out that quantum coherence may be a necessary resource for the existence of an optimal erasure process.

  • The extraction of work from quantum coherence
    Kamil Korzekwa, Matteo Lostaglio, Jonathan Oppenheim, David Jennings
    New J. Phys. 18, 023045 (2016)

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    + Abstract

    Highlights of 2016

    Abstract: The interplay between quantum-mechanical properties, such as coherence, and classical notions, such as energy, is a subtle topic at the forefront of quantum thermodynamics. The traditional Carnot argument limits the conversion of heat to work; here we critically assess the problem of converting coherence to work. Through a careful account of all resources involved in the thermodynamic transformations within a fully quantum-mechanical treatment, we show that there exist thermal machines extracting work from coherence arbitrarily well. Such machines only need to act on individual copies of a state and can be reused. On the other hand, we show that for any thermal machine with finite resources not all the coherence of a state can be extracted as work. However, even bounded thermal machines can be reused infinitely many times in the process of work extraction from coherence.

  • Quantum Coherence, Time-Translation Symmetry, and Thermodynamics
    Matteo Lostaglio, Kamil Korzekwa, David Jennings, Terry Rudolph
    Phys. Rev. X 5, 021001 (2015)

    PDF

    + Abstract

    + Popular Summary

    Featured in Physics

    Abstract: The first law of thermodynamics imposes not just a constraint on the energy-content of systems in extreme quantum regimes, but also symmetry-constraints related to the thermodynamic processing of quantum coherence. We show that this thermodynamic symmetry decomposes any quantum state into mode operators that quantify the coherence present in the state. We then establish general upper and lower bounds for the evolution of quantum coherence under arbitrary thermal operations, valid for any temperature. We identify primitive coherence manipulations and show that the transfer of coherence between energy levels manifests irreversibility not captured by free energy. Moreover, the recently developed thermo-majorization relations on block-diagonal quantum states are observed to be special cases of this symmetry analysis.

    Popular summary: The remarkable discovery that energy at microscopic scales often comes in discrete chunks originated in Planck's attempt to understand the way that hot bodies glow. Thus began the long and intimate relationship between the field of thermodynamics, which explores our ability to manipulate heat and other energy transfers between macroscopic systems, and quantum mechanics, which explains the dynamics of individual microscopic systems. Even as both our technology and our theoretical investigations have extended to ever-smaller devices, our understanding of quantum effects on thermodynamics has remained almost exclusively limited to the quantized nature of energy. There is much more, however, to quantum theory than energy quantization; here our focus has been the property of quantum coherence the ability of quantum systems to emulate Schroedinger's cat and somehow be neither "dead and alive" nor "dead or alive" but something completely different altogether. We have discovered how to simplify our understanding of the thermal processing of coherence by using the fact that thermodynamical processes obey time-translation symmetry. This enables quantification of the way coherence can play an active role, facilitating the otherwise-impossible unlocking of energy from certain systems. We have conversely found fundamental limitations on how coherence can be irreversibly manipulated, limitations related to those on energy transfer as dictated by the Second Law of thermodynamics. It has long been appreciated that understanding of thermodynamics must be accompanied by an understanding of information theory. Our work provides evidence that to apply the laws of thermodynamics to the smallest systems around us necessitates an understanding of quantum information theory.

+ Oral Presentations

  • Beyond the thermodynamic limit

    Slides

    Slides (variant)

    + Presented at

    • Center for Theoretical Physics seminar, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland (2017)
    • Quantum Information & Chaos seminar, Jagiellonian University, Poland (2017)
    • Quantum Foundations and Beyond symposium, National Quantum Information Centre, Sopot, Poland (2017)
    • Quantum Science Group seminar, University of Sydney, Australia (2017)
  • The extraction of work from quantum coherence

    Slides

    + Presented at

    • Scientific meeting of PhD students, Wrocław University of Technology, Poland (2016)
  • Quantum information and thermodynamics: a resource-theoretic approach

    Slides

    + Presented at

    • Quantum Optics and Laser Science Group seminar, Imperial College London, United Kingdom (2016)
    • Takahiro Sagawa's Group seminar, University of Tokyo, Japan (2016)
    • Quantum Science Group seminar, University of Sydney, Australia (2016)
    • Coherence-Correlations-Complexity seminar, Wrocław University of Technology, Poland (2015)
  • Quantum Coherence, Time-Translation Symmetry, and Thermodynamics

    Slides

    + Presented at

    • APS March Meeting, Baltimore, USA (2016)
    • 4th International Workshop on the Optical Properties of Nanostructures, Wrocław, Poland (2016)
    • Quantum Information Theory seminar, ICFO Barcelona, Spain (2016)
    • Symposium on Quantum Coherence, University of Ulm, Germany (2015)
    • Quantum Information Theory seminar, ETH Zurich, Switzerland (2015)
    • 7th Colleges of London Quantum Information Meeting, Imperial College London, United Kingdom (2014)
+ Poster Presentations
  • Work extraction from quantum coherence

    Poster

    + Presented at

    • 3rd Quantum Thermodynamics Conference, Porquerolles, France (2015)
    • Postgraduate Research Symposium at Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom (2015)
  • Quantum Coherence, Time-Translation Symmetry, and Thermodynamics

    Poster

    + Presented at

    • 18th Conference on Quantum Information Processing, Sydney, Australia (2015)
    • 2nd Quantum Thermodynamics Conference, Mallorca, Spain (2015)