Generalized relative entropy

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Generalized relative entropy (-relative entropy) is a measure of dissimilarity between two quantum states. It is a "one-shot" analogue of quantum relative entropy and shares many properties of the latter quantity.

In the study of quantum information theory, we typically assume that information processing tasks are repeated multiple times, independently. The corresponding information-theoretic notions are therefore defined in the asymptotic limit. The quintessential entropy measure, von Neumann entropy, is one such notion. In contrast, the study of one-shot quantum information theory is concerned with information processing when a task is conducted only once. New entropic measures emerge in this scenario, as traditional notions cease to give a precise characterization of resource requirements. -relative entropy is one such particularly interesting measure.

In the asymptotic scenario, relative entropy acts as a parent quantity for other measures besides being an important measure itself. Similarly, -relative entropy functions as a parent quantity for other measures in the one-shot scenario.


To motivate the definition of the -relative entropy , consider the information processing task of hypothesis testing. In hypothesis testing, we wish to devise a strategy to distinguish between two density operators and . A strategy is a POVM with elements and . The probability that the strategy produces a correct guess on input is given by and the probability that it produces a wrong guess is given by . -relative entropy captures the minimum probability of error when the state is , given that the success probability for is at least .

For , the -relative entropy between two quantum states and is defined as

From the definition, it is clear that . This inequality is saturated if and only if , as shown below.

Relationship to the trace distance[edit]

Suppose the trace distance between two density operators and is

For , it holds that


In particular, this implies the following analogue of the Pinsker inequality[1]


Furthermore, the proposition implies that for any , if and only if , inheriting this property from the trace distance. This result and its proof can be found in Dupuis et al.[2]

Proof of inequality a)[edit]

Upper bound: Trace distance can be written as

This maximum is achieved when is the orthogonal projector onto the positive eigenspace of . For any POVM element we have

so that if , we have

From the definition of the -relative entropy, we get

Lower bound: Let be the orthogonal projection onto the positive eigenspace of , and let be the following convex combination of and :


This means

and thus


Using , our choice of , and finally the definition of , we can re-write this as


Proof of inequality (b)[edit]

To derive this Pinsker-like inequality, observe that

Alternative proof of the Data Processing inequality[edit]

A fundamental property of von Neumann entropy is strong subadditivity. Let denote the von Neumann entropy of the quantum state , and let be a quantum state on the tensor product Hilbert space . Strong subadditivity states that

where refer to the reduced density matrices on the spaces indicated by the subscripts. When re-written in terms of mutual information, this inequality has an intuitive interpretation; it states that the information content in a system cannot increase by the action of a local quantum operation on that system. In this form, it is better known as the data processing inequality, and is equivalent to the monotonicity of relative entropy under quantum operations:[3]

for every CPTP map , where denotes the relative entropy of the quantum states .

It is readily seen that -relative entropy also obeys monotonicity under quantum operations:[4]


for any CPTP map . To see this, suppose we have a POVM to distinguish between and such that . We construct a new POVM to distinguish between and . Since the adjoint of any CPTP map is also positive and unital, this is a valid POVM. Note that , where is the POVM that achieves . Not only is this interesting in itself, but it also gives us the following alternative method to prove the data processing inequality.[5]

By the quantum analogue of the Stein lemma,[6]

where the minimum is taken over such that

Applying the data processing inequality to the states and with the CPTP map , we get

Dividing by on either side and taking the limit as , we get the desired result.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Watrous, J. Theory of Quantum Information, Fall 2013. Ch. 5, page 194
  2. ^ Dupuis, F., et al. "Generalized entropies." arXiv:1211.3141.
  3. ^ Ruskai, Mary Beth. "Inequalities for quantum entropy: A review with conditions for equality." Journal of Mathematical Physics 43 (2002): 4358. arXiv:0205064
  4. ^ Wang, L. and Renner, R. "One-shot classical-quantum capacity and hypothesis testing." Physical Review Letters 108.20 (2012): 200501. arXiv:1007.5456v3
  5. ^ Dupuis, F., et al. "Generalized entropies." arXiv:1211.3141 (2012).
  6. ^ Petz, Dénes. Quantum information theory and quantum statistics. Springer, 2008. Chapter 8