Nonthermal Quantum Channels as a Thermodynamical Resource
Quantum thermodynamics can be understood as a resource theory, whereby thermal states are free and the only allowed operations are unitary transformations commuting with the total Hamiltonian of the system. Previous literature on the subject has just focused on transformations between different state resources, overlooking the fact that quantum operations which do not commute with the total energy also constitute a potentially valuable resource. In this Letter, given a number of nonthermal quantum channels, we study the problem of how to integrate them in a thermal engine so as to distill a maximum amount of work. We find that, in the limit of asymptotically many uses of each channel, the distillable work is an additive function of the considered channels, computable for both finite dimensional quantum operations and bosonic channels. We apply our results to bound the amount of distillable work due to the natural nonthermal processes postulated in the Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber (GRW) collapse model. We find that, although GRW theory predicts the possibility of extracting work from the vacuum at no cost, the power which a collapse engine could, in principle, generate is extremely low. © 2015 American Physical Society. © 2015 American Physical Society.