Low-Depth Quantum Simulation of Materials

Nathan Wiebe
James McClain
Garnet Chan
Physical Review X, 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.