Nav: Home

Evidence of power: Phasing quantum annealers into experiments from nonequilibrium physics

September 10, 2020

It is established that matter can transition between different phases when certain parameters, such as temperature, are changed. Although phase transitions are common (like water turning into ice in a freezer), the dynamics that govern these processes are highly complex and constitute a prominent problem in the field of nonequilibrium physics.

When a system undergoes a phase transition, matter in the new phase has many possible energetically equal "configurations" to adopt. In these cases, different parts of the system adopt different configurations over regions called "domains." The interfaces between these domains are known as topological defects and reducing the number of these defects formed can be immensely valuable in many applications.

One common strategy to reduce defects is easing the system through the phase transition slowly. In fact, according to the "Kibble-Zurek" mechanism (KZM), it is predicted that the average number of defects and the driving time of the phase transition follow a universal power law. However, experimentally testing the KZM in a quantum system has remained a coveted goal.

In a recent study published in Physical Review Research, a team of scientists led by Professor Emeritus Hidetoshi Nishimori from Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, probed the validity of the KZM in two commercially available quantum annealers, a type of quantum computer designed for solving complex optimization problems. These devices, known as D-Wave annealers, can recreate controllable quantum systems and control their evolution over time, providing a suitable experimental testbed for the KZM.

First, the scientists checked whether the "power law" between the average number of defects and the annealing time (driving time of the phase transition) predicted by the KZM held for a quantum magnetic system called the "one-dimensional transverse-field Ising model." This model represents the orientations (spins) of a long chain of "magnetic dipoles," where homogenous regions are separated by defects seen as neighboring spins pointing in incorrect directions.

While the original prediction of the KZM regarding the average number of defects was valid in this system, the scientists took it a step further: although this extension of the KZM was originally intended for a completely "isolated" quantum system unaffected by external parameters, they found good agreement between its predictions and their experimental results even in the D-Wave annealers, which are "open" quantum systems.

Excited by these results, Prof Nishimori remarks: "Our work provides the first experimental test of universal critical dynamics in a many-body open quantum system. It also constitutes the first test of certain physics beyond the original KZM, providing strong experimental evidence that the generalized theory holds beyond the regime of validity theoretically established."

This study showcases the potential of quantum annealers to perform simulations of quantum systems and also helps gain insight on other areas of physics. In this regard, Prof Nishimori states: "Our results leverage quantum annealing devices as platforms to test and explore the frontiers of nonequilibrium physics. We hope our work will motivate further research combining quantum annealing and other universal principles in nonequilibrium physics." Hopefully, this study will also promote the use of quantum annealers in experimental physics. After all, who doesn't love finding a new use for a tool?
-end-


Tokyo Institute of Technology

Related Physics Articles:

Helium, a little atom for big physics
Helium is the simplest multi-body atom. Its energy levels can be calculated with extremely high precision only relying on a few fundamental physical constants and the quantum electrodynamics (QED) theory.
Hyperbolic metamaterials exhibit 2T physics
According to Igor Smolyaninov of the University of Maryland, ''One of the more unusual applications of metamaterials was a theoretical proposal to construct a physical system that would exhibit two-time physics behavior on small scales.''
Challenges and opportunities for women in physics
Women in the United States hold fewer than 25% of bachelor's degrees, 20% of doctoral degrees and 19% of faculty positions in physics.
Indeterminist physics for an open world
Classical physics is characterized by the equations describing the world.
Leptons help in tracking new physics
Electrons with 'colleagues' -- other leptons - are one of many products of collisions observed in the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider.
Has physics ever been deterministic?
Researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the University of Vienna and the University of Geneva, have proposed a new interpretation of classical physics without real numbers.
Twisted physics
A new study in the journal Nature shows that superconductivity in bilayer graphene can be turned on or off with a small voltage change, increasing its usefulness for electronic devices.
Physics vs. asthma
A research team from the MIPT Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases has collaborated with colleagues from the U.S., Canada, France, and Germany to determine the spatial structure of the CysLT1 receptor.
2D topological physics from shaking a 1D wire
Published in Physical Review X, this new study propose a realistic scheme to observe a 'cold-atomic quantum Hall effect.'
Helping physics teachers who don't know physics
A shortage of high school physics teachers has led to teachers with little-to-no training taking over physics classrooms, reports show.
More Physics News and Physics Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.