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Evaluating the Evidence for Exponential Quantum Advantage in Ground-State Quantum Chemistry

Seunghoon Lee
Joonho Lee
Huanchen Zhai
Yu Tong
Alexander Dalzell
Ashutosh Kumar
Phillip Helms
Johnnie Gray
Zhi-Hao Cui
Michael Kastoryano
John Preskill
David Reichman
Earl Campbell
Edward Valeev
Lin Lin
Garnet Chan
Nature Communications, vol. 14 (2023)


Due to intense interest in the potential applications of quantum computing, it is critical to understand the basis for potential exponential quantum advantage in quantum chemistry. Here we gather the evidence for this case in the most common task in quantum chemistry, namely, ground-state energy estimation, for generic chemical problems where heuristic quantum state preparation might be assumed to be efficient. The availability of exponential quantum advantage then centers on whether features of the physical problem that enable efficient heuristic quantum state preparation also enable efficient solution by classical heuristics. Through numerical studies of quantum state preparation and empirical complexity analysis (including the error scaling) of classical heuristics, in both ab initio and model Hamiltonian settings, we conclude that evidence for such an exponential advantage across chemical space has yet to be found. While quantum computers may still prove useful for ground-state quantum chemistry through polynomial speedups, it may be prudent to assume exponential speedups are not generically available for this problem.

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