Researchers Take Another Step Toward Making Quantum Circuits More Efficient

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The quantum circuit. Different layers correspond to different error tolerances, with the bottom layer having the smallest error tolerance. Credit: Authors/Physical Review Letters

Quantum circuits, the building blocks of quantum computers, use quantum mechanical effects to perform tasks. They are much faster and more accurate than the classical circuits that are found in electronic devices today. In reality, however, because no quantum circuit is completely error-free, maximizing the efficiency of a quantum circuit would be a major step toward more practical, more efficient, and faster quantum computing.

To address this, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have devised an algorithm to explicitly count the number of computing resources necessary, and optimized it to obtain , according to Phys.org.

“We were able to [theoretically] build the most efficient circuit and bring down the amount of resources needed by a huge factor,” said Aninda Sinha, associate professor at the Centre for High Energy Physics, IISc, and corresponding author of the paper published in Physical Review Letters. The researchers also suggest that this is the maximum possible efficiency achievable for a .

Optimizing quantum circuit efficiency is useful in various fields, especially . Not only will quantum computers give faster and more accurate results than classical computers, they will also be more secure—they cannot be hacked, which makes them useful for protection against digital bank fraud, security breaches and data theft. They can also be used to tackle complicated tasks such as optimizing transportation problems and simulating the financial market.

Classical circuits consist of universal logic gates (such as NAND and NOR gates), each of which performs pre-defined operations on the input to produce an output.

“Analogously, there are universal quantum gates for making quantum circuits. In reality, the gates are not 100 percent efficient; there is always an error associated with the output of each gate. And that error cannot be removed; it simply keeps on adding for every gate used in the circuit,” said Pratik Nandy, Sinha’s Ph.D. student and a co-author of the paper.

The most efficient circuit does not minimize the error in the output; rather it minimizes the resources required for obtaining that same output. “So the question boils down to: given a net error tolerance, what is the minimum number of gates needed to build a quantum circuit?” says Nandy.

In 2006, a study led by Michael Nielsen, a former faculty member at the University of Queensland, showed that counting the number of gates to achieve maximum efficiency is equivalent to finding the path with the shortest distance between two points in some mathematical space with volume V. A separate 2016 study argued that this number should vary directly with V.

“We went back to Nielsen’s original work and it turns out that his gate counting does not give you a variation with V, rather it varies with V2,” says Sinha. He and his team generalized that study’s assumptions and introduced a few modifications to resolve the optimization problem.

“Our calculations revealed that the minimum number of indeed varies directly with the volume,” he said.

Surprisingly, the results also appear to link the efficiency optimization problem with string theory, a famous idea that tries to combine gravity and quantum physics to explain how the universe works. Sinha and his team believe that this link can prove to be instrumental in helping scientists interpret theories that involve gravity. They also aim to develop methods that describe a collection of quantum to calculate certain experimental quantities that cannot be theoretically simulated using existing methods.