On the connection between microscopic description and memory effects in open quantum system dynamics

Andrea Smirne, Nina Megier, and Bassano Vacchini

Dipartimento di Fisica “Aldo Pontremoli”, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Celoria 16, 20133 Milan, Italy
Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Sezione di Milano, via Celoria 16, 20133 Milan, Italy

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The exchange of information between an open quantum system and its environment allows us to discriminate among different kinds of dynamics, in particular detecting memory effects to characterize non-Markovianity. Here, we investigate the role played by the system-environment correlations and the environmental evolution in the flow of information. First, we derive general conditions ensuring that two generalized dephasing microscopic models of the global system-environment evolution result exactly in the same open-system dynamics, for any initial state of the system. Then, we use the trace distance to quantify the distinct contributions to the information inside and outside the open system in the two models. Our analysis clarifies how the interplay between system-environment correlations and environmental-state distinguishability can lead to the same information flow from and toward the open system, despite significant qualitative and quantitative differences at the level of the global evolution.

What are the key physical mechanisms behind the occurrence of memory effects in quantum dynamics? While in the last years several characterizations of non-Markovian evolutions in open quantum systems have been developed, each capturing a different facet of the memory due to the interaction with the environment, we are still lacking a full understanding of the microscopic origin of non-Markovianity.
In this paper, we address this question relying on the analysis of the information exchange between an open quantum system and its environment. We consider two microscopic models that, despite different coupling terms and initial environmental states, possess exactly the same reduced dynamics. Using the trace distance to quantify the information within the open system and at the level of the global evolution, we clarify how quantitatively and even qualitatively different behaviors of the system-environment correlations and environmental-state distinguishability can result in the same back-flow of information to the open system, thus leading to the very same memory effects in the evolution.

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