Skip to Main Content
Thermal fluctuations generate magnetic noise in the vicinity of any conductive and/or magnetically permeable solid. This magnetic noise plays a fundamental role in the design of spintronic devices: namely, it sets the time scale during which electron spins retain their coherence. This paper presents a rigorous classical and quantum analysis of thermal magnetic noise, together with practical engineering examples. Starting with the fluctuation-dissipation theorem and Maxwell's equations, a closed-form expression for the spectral density of thermal magnetic noise is derived. Quantum decoherence, as induced by thermal magnetic noise, is analyzed via the independent oscillator heat bath model of Ford et al. The resulting quantum Langevin equations yield closed-form expressions for the spin relaxation times. For realistic experiments in spintronics, magnetic resonance force microscopy, Bose-Einstein condensates, atomic physics, and solid-state quantum computing, the predicted relaxation rates are rapid enough that substantial experimental care must be taken to minimize them. At zero temperature, the quantum entanglement between a spin state and a thermal reservoir is computed. The same Hamiltonian matrix elements that govern fluctuation and dissipation are shown to also govern entanglement and renormalization, and a specific example of a fluctuation-dissipation-entanglement theorem is constructed. We postulate that this theorem is independent of the detailed structure of thermal reservoirs, and therefore expresses a general thermodynamic principle.