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Low-Depth Quantum Simulation of Materials

Nathan Wiebe
James McClain
Garnet Chan
Physical Review X, vol. 8 (2018), pp. 011044


Quantum simulation of the electronic structure problem is one of the most researched applications of quantum computing. The majority of quantum algorithms for this problem encode the wavefunction using $N$ molecular orbitals, leading to Hamiltonians with ${\cal O}(N^4)$ second-quantized terms. To avoid this overhead, we introduce basis functions which diagonalize the periodized Coulomb operator, providing Hamiltonians for condensed phase systems with $N^2$ second-quantized terms. Using this representation we can implement single Trotter steps of the Hamiltonians with gate depth of ${\cal O}(N)$ on a planar lattice of qubits -- a quartic improvement over prior methods. Special properties of our basis allow us to apply Trotter based simulations with planar circuit depth in $\widetilde{\cal O}(N^{7/2} / \epsilon^{1/2})$ and Taylor series methods with circuit size $\widetilde{\cal O}(N^{11/3})$, where $\epsilon$ is target precision. Variational algorithms also require significantly fewer measurements to find the mean energy using our representation, ameliorating a primary challenge of that approach. We conclude with a proposal to simulate the uniform electron gas (jellium) using a linear depth variational ansatz realizable on near-term quantum devices with planar connectivity. From these results we identify simulation of low-density jellium as an ideal first target for demonstrating quantum supremacy in electronic structure.