The study of thermodynamic fluctuations allows one to relate the free energy difference between two equilibrium states with the work done on a system through processes far from equilibrium. This finding plays a crucial role in the quantum regime, where the definition of work becomes nontrivial. Based on these relations, the physicists develop a simple interferometric method allowing a direct estimation of the work distribution and the average dissipative work during a driven thermodynamic process by superposing the forward and time-reversal evolutions of the process. They show that our scheme provides useful upper bounds on the average dissipative work even without full control over the thermodynamic process, and they propose methodological variations depending on the possible experimental limitations encountered. Finally, they exemplify its applicability by an experimental proposal for implementing our method on a quantum photonics system, on which the thermodynamic process is performed through polarization rotations induced by liquid crystals acting in a discrete temporal regime.
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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 801110.
ESQ has received funding from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF).