Theses Doctoral

Quantum Algorithms for Scientific Computing and Approximate Optimization

Hadfield, Stuart Andrew

Quantum computation appears to offer significant advantages over classical computation and this has generated a tremendous interest in the field. In this thesis we study the application of quantum computers to computational problems in science and engineering, and to combinatorial optimization problems. We outline the results below.
Algorithms for scientific computing require modules, i.e., building blocks, implementing elementary numerical functions that have well-controlled numerical error, are uniformly scalable and reversible, and that can be implemented efficiently. We derive quantum algorithms and circuits for computing square roots, logarithms, and arbitrary fractional powers, and derive worst-case error and cost bounds. We describe a modular approach to quantum algorithm design as a first step towards numerical standards and mathematical libraries for quantum scientific computing.
A fundamental but computationally hard problem in physics is to solve the time-independent Schrödinger equation. This is accomplished by computing the eigenvalues of the corresponding Hamiltonian operator. The eigenvalues describe the different energy levels of a system. The cost of classical deterministic algorithms computing these eigenvalues grows exponentially with the number of system degrees of freedom. The number of degrees of freedom is typically proportional to the number of particles in a physical system. We show an efficient quantum algorithm for approximating a constant number of low-order eigenvalues of a Hamiltonian using a perturbation approach. We apply this algorithm to a special case of the Schrödinger equation and show that our algorithm succeeds with high probability, and has cost that scales polynomially with the number of degrees of freedom and the reciprocal of the desired accuracy. This improves and extends earlier results on quantum algorithms for estimating the ground state energy.
We consider the simulation of quantum mechanical systems on a quantum computer. We show a novel divide and conquer approach for Hamiltonian simulation. Using the Hamiltonian structure, we can obtain faster simulation algorithms. Considering a sum of Hamiltonians we split them into groups, simulate each group separately, and combine the partial results. Simulation is customized to take advantage of the properties of each group, and hence yield refined bounds to the overall simulation cost. We illustrate our results using the electronic structure problem of quantum chemistry, where we obtain significantly improved cost estimates under mild assumptions.
We turn to combinatorial optimization problems. An important open question is whether quantum computers provide advantages for the approximation of classically hard combinatorial problems. A promising recently proposed approach of Farhi et al. is the Quantum Approximate Optimization Algorithm (QAOA). We study the application of QAOA to the Maximum Cut problem, and derive analytic performance bounds for the lowest circuit-depth realization, for both general and special classes of graphs. Along the way, we develop a general procedure for analyzing the performance of QAOA for other problems, and show an example demonstrating the difficulty of obtaining similar results for greater depth.
We show a generalization of QAOA and its application to wider classes of combinatorial optimization problems, in particular, problems with feasibility constraints. We introduce the Quantum Alternating Operator Ansatz, which utilizes more general unitary operators than the original QAOA proposal. Our framework facilitates low-resource implementations for many applications which may be particularly suitable for early quantum computers. We specify design criteria, and develop a set of results and tools for mapping diverse problems to explicit quantum circuits. We derive constructions for several important prototypical problems including Maximum Independent Set, Graph Coloring, and the Traveling Salesman problem, and show appealing resource cost estimates for their implementations.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Computer Science
Thesis Advisors
Aho, Alfred V.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 16, 2018