GNSS & Machine Learning Engineer

Category: Quantum Computing

Google Quantum observed non-Abelian Anyons for the first time

Google Quantum AI has made a groundbreaking observation of non-Abelian anyons, particles that can exhibit any intermediate statistics between the well-known fermions and bosons. This breakthrough has the potential to transform quantum computing by significantly enhancing its resistance to noise. The term “anyon” was coined by Nobel laureate physicist Frank Wilczek in the early 1980s while studying Abelian anyons. He combined “any” with the particle suffix “-on” to emphasize the range of statistics these particles can exhibit.

Fermions are elementary particles with half-integer spin, such as quarks and leptons (electrons, muons, tauons, as well as their corresponding neutrinos), and their wave functions are anti-symmetrical under the exchange of identical particles. Examples of bosons, which have integer spin and symmetrical wave functions under particle exchange, include the Higgs boson and the gauge bosons: photons, W- and Z bosons, and gluons. In contrast, anyons obey fractional quantum statistics and possess more exotic properties that can just exist in two-dimensional systems.

The history of anyons dates back to Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin’s study of the fractional quantum Hall effect, a phenomenon observed in two-dimensional electron systems subjected to strong magnetic fields. In 1983, he proposed a wave function to describe the ground state of these systems, which led to the understanding that the fractional quantum Hall effect involves quasiparticles with fractional charge and statistics. These quasiparticles can be considered as anyons in two-dimensional space.

Anyons can be categorized into two types: Abelian and non-Abelian. Abelian anyons obey Abelian (commutative) statistics, which were studied by Wilczek and Laughlin. Non-Abelian anyons, on the other hand, have more exotic properties: when exchanged, their quantum states change in a non-trivial way that depends on the order of the exchange, leading to a “memory” effect. This memory effect makes non-Abelian anyons particularly interesting for topological quantum computation. While the theoretical concept of non-Abelian anyons was already discussed around 1991, it was Alexei Kitaev who made the connection to fault-tolerant, topological quantum computing in a 1997 paper.

Microsoft, among other companies, has been working on harnessing non-Abelian anyons for topological quantum computing, focusing on a specific class called Majorana zero modes, which can be realized in hybrid semiconductor-superconductor systems.

In a recent paper published in Nature on May 11, 2023, Google Quantum AI reported their first-ever observation of non-Abelian anyons using a superconducting quantum processor (see also article on arXiv from 19 Oct 2022). They demonstrated the potential use of these anyons in quantum computations, such as creating a Greenberger-Horne-Zeilinger (GHZ) entangled state by braiding non-Abelian anyons together.

This achievement complements another recent study published on May 9, 2023, by quantum computing company Quantinuum, which demonstrated non-Abelian braiding using a trapped-ion quantum processor. The Google team’s work shows that non-Abelian anyon physics can be realized on superconducting processors, aligning with Microsoft’s approach to quantum computing. This breakthrough has the potential to accelerate progress towards fault-tolerant topological quantum computing.

Google demonstrates that logical Qubits actually reduce Quantum Error Rates

In an announcement from Feb 22, 2023, and in a corresponding Nature paper, Google demonstrates for the first time that logical qubits can actually reduce the error rates in a quantum computer.

Physical qubits have a 1-to-1 relation between a qubit in a quantum algorithm and its physical realization in a quantum system. The problem with physical qubits is that due to thermal noise, they can decohere so they no longer build such a quantum system with a superposition of the bit states 0 and 1. How often this decoherence happens is formalized by the quantum error rate. This error rate influences a quantum algorithm in two ways. First, the more qubits are involved in a quantum algorithm, the higher the probability of an error. Second, the longer a qubit is used in a quantum algorithm and the more gates act on it, i.e. the deeper the algorithm is, also the higher the probability of an error.

It is surprising that it is possible to correct (via quantum error correction algorithms) physical qubit errors without actually measuring the qubits (which would always destroy them). Such error correction codes are at least already known since 1996. The information of a physical qubit that is distributed over a bunch of physical qubits in a way so that certain quantum errors are automatically corrected, builds a logical qubit. However, the physical qubits involved in the logical qubit are also subjected to the quantum error rate. Thus there is an obvious trade-off between involving more physical qubits for a longer time, which could increase the error rate, and having a mechanism to reduce the error rate. Which effect prevails depends on the used error correction code as well as on the error rate of the used physical qubits. Google has now demonstrated for the first time that in their system there is actually an advantage of using a so-called surface code logical qubit.

Scientists from Google AI, Caltech, Harvard, MIT, and Fermilab simulate a traversable wormhole with a quantum computer

Researchers from Google AI, Caltech, Harvard, MIT, and Fermilab simulated a quantum theory on the Google Sycamore quantum processor to probe the dynamics of a quantum system equivalent to a wormhole in a gravity model.

The quantum experiment is based on the ER=EPR conjecture that states that wormholes are equivalent to quantum entanglement. ER stands for Einstein and Rosen who proposed the concept of wormholes (a term coined by Wheeler and Misner in a 1957 paper) in 1935, EPR stands for Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen who proposed the concept of entanglement in May 1935, one month before the ER paper (see historical context). These concepts were completely unrelated until Susskind and Maldacena conjectured in 2013 that any pair of entangled quantum systems are connected by an Einstein-Rosen bridge (= non-traversable wormhole). In 2017 Jafferis, Gao, and Wall extended the ER=EPR idea to traversable wormholes. They showed that a traversable wormhole is equivalent to quantum teleportation [1][2].

The endeavor was published on Nov 30, 2022 in a Nature article. There is also a nice video on youtube explaining the experiment. Tim Andersen discusses in an interesting article whether or not a wormhole was created in the lab.

© 2023 Stephan Seeger

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