Operational nonclassicality in minimal autonomous thermal machines

Jonatan Bohr Brask1, Fabien Clivaz2,3, Géraldine Haack4, and Armin Tavakoli3,5

1Department of Physics, Technical University of Denmark, 2800 Kongens Lyngby, Denmark
2Institut für Theoretische Physik und IQST, Universität Ulm, Albert-Einstein-Allee 11, D-89069 Ulm, Germany
3Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information - IQOQI Vienna, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Boltzmanngasse 3, 1090 Vienna, Austria
4Département de Physique Appliqée, Université de Genève, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
5Atominstitut, Technische Universität Wien, Stadionallee 2, 1020 Vienna, Austria

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Thermal machines exploit interactions with multiple heat baths to perform useful tasks, such as work production and refrigeration. In the quantum regime, tasks with no classical counterpart become possible. Here, we consider the minimal setting for quantum thermal machines, namely two-qubit autonomous thermal machines that use only incoherent interactions with their environment, and investigate the fundamental resources needed to generate entanglement. Our investigation is systematic, covering different types of interactions, bosonic and fermionic environments, and different resources that can be supplied to the machine. We adopt an operational perspective in which we assess the nonclassicality of the generated entanglement through its ability to perform useful tasks such as Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen steering, quantum teleportation and Bell nonlocality. We provide both constructive examples of nonclassical effects and general no-go results that demarcate the fundamental limits in autonomous entanglement generation. Our results open up a path toward understanding nonclassical phenomena in thermal processes.

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