Accuracy assessment of perturbative master equations: Embracing nonpositivity

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung


The reduced dynamics of an open quantum system obtained from an underlying microscopic Hamiltonian can in general only approximately be described by a time-local master equation. The quality of that approximation depends primarily on the coupling strength and the structure of the environment. Various such master equations have been proposed with different aims. Choosing the most suitable one for a specific system is not straightforward. By focusing on the accuracy of the reduced dynamics we provide a thorough assessment for a selection of methods (Redfield equation, quantum optical master equation, coarse-grained master equation, a related dynamical map approach, and a partial-secular approximation). We consider secondary, here, whether or not an approach guarantees positivity. We use two qubits coupled to a Lorentzian environment in a spin-boson-like fashion modeling a generic situation with various system and bath time scales. We see that, independent of the initial state, the simple Redfield equation with time-dependent coefficients is significantly more accurate than all other methods under consideration. We emphasize that positivity violation in the Redfield equation formalism becomes relevant only in a regime where any of the perturbative master equations considered here are rendered invalid anyway. This implies that the loss of positivity should in fact be welcomed as an important feature: it indicates the breakdown of the weak-coupling assumption. In addition we present the various approaches in a self-contained way and use the behavior of their errors to provide further insight into the range of validity of each method.


FachzeitschriftPhysical Review A
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2020

Externe IDs

Scopus 85078570185
ORCID /0000-0002-7806-3525/work/142234169
ORCID /0000-0002-8967-6183/work/142250862



  • open quantum system dynamics, master equations, open system dynamics, Radfield equation, benchmark, two spin boson model, Lorentzian spectral density