Coherence distillation machines are impossible in quantum thermodynamics
AbstractThe role of coherence in quantum thermodynamics has been extensively studied in the recent years and it is now well-understood that coherence between different energy eigenstates is a resource independent of other thermodynamics resources, such as work. A fundamental remaining open question is whether the laws of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics allow the existence of a coherence distillation machine, i.e., a machine that, by possibly consuming work, obtains pure coherent states from mixed states, at a nonzero rate. This is related to another fundamental question: Starting from many copies of noisy quantum clocks which are (approximately) synchronized with a reference clock, can one distill synchronized clocks in pure states, at a non-zero rate? Surprisingly, we find that the answer to both questions is negative for generic (full-rank) mixed states. However, at the same time, it is possible to distill a sub-linear number of pure coherent states with a vanishing error.