Fluctuation theorems and inequalities generalizing the second law of thermodynamics out of equilibrium
We present a general framework for systems which are prepared in a nonstationary nonequilibrium state in the absence of any perturbation and which are then further driven through the application of a time-dependent perturbation. By assumption, the evolution of the system must be described by Markovian dynamics. We distinguish two different situations depending on the way the nonequilibrium state is prepared; either it is created by some driving or it results from a relaxation following some initial nonstationary conditions. Our approach is based on a recent generalization of the Hatano-Sasa relation for nonstationary probability distributions. We also investigate whether a form of the second law holds for separate parts of the entropy production and for any nonstationary reference process, a question motivated by the work of M. Esposito et al. [ Phys. Rev. Lett. 104 090601 (2010)]. We find that although the special structure of the theorems derived in this reference is not recovered in the general case, detailed fluctuation theorems still hold separately for parts of the entropy production. These detailed fluctuation theorems contain interesting generalizations of the second law of thermodynamics for nonequilibrium systems.