@PRL Irreversibility and the emergence of the arrow of time in quantum systems
November 3, 2015
Entropy production, a quantity associated with the emergence of the arrow of time, has been successfully measured in a microscopic quantum system. Irreversibility is one of the most intriguing concepts in physics. While microscopic physical laws are perfectly reversible, macroscopic average behavior has a preferred direction of time. According to the second law of thermodynamics, this arrow of time is associated with a positive mean entropy production. Using a nuclear magnetic resonance setup, we measure the nonequilibrium entropy produced in an isolated spin-1/2 system following fast quenches of an external magnetic field and experimentally demonstrate that it is equal to the entropic distance, expressed by the Kullback-Leibler divergence, between a microscopic process and its time-reverse. Our result addresses the concept of irreversibility from a microscopic quantum standpoint.