We present a first-principles derivation of the Markovian semi-group master equation without invoking the rotating wave approximation (RWA). Instead we use a time coarse-graining approach which leaves us with a free timescale parameter, which we can optimize. Comparing this approach to the standard RWA-based Markovian master equation, we find that significantly better agreement is possible using the coarse-graining approach, for a three-level model coupled to a bath of oscillators, whose exact dynamics we can solve for at zero temperature. The model has the important feature that the RWA has a non-trivial effect on the dynamics of the populations. We show that the two different master equations can exhibit strong qualitative differences for the population of the energy eigenstates even for such a simple model. The RWA-based master equation misses an important feature which the coarse-graining based scheme does not. By optimizing the coarse-graining timescale the latter scheme can be made to approach the exact solution much more closely than the RWA-based master equation.

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Physical Review A: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics

Majenz, C., & Albash, T. (2013). Coarse-Graining Can Beat the Rotating Wave Approximation in Quantum Markovian Master Equations. Physical Review A: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, 88. doi:10.1103/PhysRevA.88.012103