Recent publications

  • J. Shang, Z. Zhang, and HK Ng, Superfast maximum likelihood reconstruction for quantum tomography, Phys Rev A 95, 062336 (2017)arXiv:1609.07881.

    Conventional methods for computing maximum-likelihood estimators (MLE) often converge slowly in practical situations, leading to a search for simplifying methods that rely on additional assumptions for their validity. In this work, we provide a fast and reliable algorithm for maximum-likelihood reconstruction that avoids this slow convergence. Our method utilizes the state-of-the-art convex optimization scheme, an accelerated projected-gradient method, that allows one to accommodate the quantum nature of the problem in a different way than in the standard methods. We demonstrate the power of our approach by comparing its performance with other algorithms for n-qubit state tomography. In particular, an eight-qubit situation that purportedly took weeks of computation time in 2005 can now be completed in under a minute for a single set of data, with far higher accuracy than previously possible. This refutes the common claim that MLE reconstruction is slow and reduces the need for alternative methods that often come with difficult-to-verify assumptions. In fact, recent methods assuming Gaussian statistics or relying on compressed sensing ideas are demonstrably inapplicable for the situation under consideration here. Our algorithm can be applied to general optimization problems over the quantum state space; the philosophy of projected gradients can further be utilized for optimization contexts with general constraints.

  • X Li, J Shang, HK Ng, and B-G Englert, Optimal error intervals for properties of the quantum statePhys Rev A 94, 062112 (2016); arXiv:1602.05780.

    Quantum state estimation aims at determining the quantum state from observed data. Estimating the full state can require considerable efforts, but one is often only interested in a few properties of the state, such as the fidelity with a target state, or the degree of correlation for a specified bipartite structure. Rather than first estimating the state, one can, and should, estimate those quantities of interest directly from the data. We propose the use of optimal error intervals as a meaningful way of stating the accuracy of the estimated property values. Optimal error intervals are analogs of the optimal error regions for state estimation [New J. Phys. 15, 123026 (2013)]. They are optimal in two ways: They have the largest likelihood for the observed data and the prechosen size, and they are the smallest for the prechosen probability of containing the true value. As in the state situation, such optimal error intervals admit a simple description in terms of the marginal likelihood for the data for the properties of interest. Here, we present the concept and construction of optimal error intervals, report on an iterative algorithm for reliable computation of the marginal likelihood (a quantity difficult to calculate reliably), explain how plausible intervals—a notion of evidence provided by the data—are related to our optimal error intervals, and illustrate our methods with single-qubit and two-qubit examples.

  • J Dai, YL Len, HK Ng, Initial system-bath state via the maximum-entropy principlePhys Rev A 94, 052112 (2016)arXiv:1508.06736.

    The initial state of a system-bath composite is needed as the input for prediction from any quantum evolution equation to describe subsequent system-only reduced dynamics or the noise on the system from joint evolution of the system and the bath. The conventional wisdom is to write down an uncorrelated state as if the system and the bath were prepared in the absence of each other; yet, such a factorized state cannot be the exact description in the presence of system-bath interactions. Here, we show how to go beyond the simplistic factorized-state prescription using ideas from quantum tomography: We employ the maximum-entropy principle to deduce an initial system-bath state consistent with the available information. For the generic case of weak interactions, we obtain an explicit formula for the correction to the factorized state. Such a state turns out to have little correlation between the system and the bath, which we can quantify using our formula. This has implications, in particular, on the subject of subsequent non-completely positive dynamics of the system. Deviation from predictions based on such an almost uncorrelated state is indicative of accidental control of hidden degrees of freedom in the bath.

  • M-I Trappe, YL Len, HK Ng, C Müller, and B-G Englert, Leading gradient correction to the kinetic energy for two-dimensional fermion gases, Phys Rev A 93, 042510 (2016); arXiv:1512.07367.

    Density-functional theory (DFT) is notorious for the absence of gradient corrections to the two-dimensional (2D) Thomas-Fermi kinetic-energy functional; it is widely accepted that the 2D analog of the 3D von Weizsäcker correction vanishes, together with all higher-order corrections. Contrary to this long-held belief, we show that the leading correction to the kinetic energy does not vanish, is unambiguous, and contributes perturbatively to the total energy. This insight emerges naturally in a simple extension of standard DFT, which has the effective potential energy as a functional variable on equal footing with the single-particle density.

  • R Han, HK Ng, B-G Englert, Implementing a neutral-atom controlled-phase gate with a single Rydberg pulse, Europhys Lett 113, 40001 (2016)arXiv:1407.8051.

    One can implement fast two-qubit entangling gates by exploiting the Rydberg blockade. Although various theoretical schemes have been proposed, experimenters have not yet been able to demonstrate two-atom gates of high fidelity due to experimental constraints. We propose a novel scheme, which only uses a single Rydberg pulse illuminating both atoms, for the construction of neutral-atom controlled-phase gates. In contrast to the existing schemes, our approach is simpler to implement and requires neither individual addressing of atoms nor adiabatic procedures. With parameters estimated based on actual experimental scenarios, a gate fidelity higher than 0.99 is achievable.

Earlier publications (2013-2015)


  • Y Zheng and HK Ng, A digital quantum simulator in the presence of a bath, arXiv:1707:04407 (2016) (submitted to Phys Rev A).

    For a digital quantum simulator (DQS) imitating a target system, we ask the following question: Under what conditions is the simulator dynamics similar to that of the target in the presence of coupling to a bath? In this paper, we derive conditions for close simulation for three different physical regimes, replacing previous heuristic arguments on the subject with rigorous statements. In fact, we find that the conventional wisdom that the simulation cycle time should always be short for good simulation need not always hold up. Numerical simulations of two specific examples strengthen the evidence for our analysis, and go beyond to explore broader regimes.

  • B-G Englert, K Horia, J Dai, YL Len, and HK Ng, Past of a quantum particle: Common sense prevails, arXiv:1704.03722 (2017) (accepted for publication at Phys Rev A).

    We analyze Vaidman’s three-path interferometer with weak path marking [Phys. Rev. A 87, 052104 (2013)] and find that common sense yields correct statements about the particle’s path through the interferometer. This disagrees with the original claim that the particles have discontinuous trajectories at odds with common sense. In our analysis, “the particle’s path” has operational meaning as acquired by a path-discriminating measurement. For a quantum-mechanical experimental demonstration of the case, one should perform a single-photon version of the experiment by Danan et al. [Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 240402 (2013)] with unambiguous path discrimination. We present a detailed proposal for such an experiment.

  • M-I Trappe, YL Len, HK Ng, and B-G Englert, Density-potential functionals: Gradient corrections to kinetic energy and particle density , arXiv:1612.04048 (2016) (submitted to Annals of Physics).

    Building on the discussion in PRA 93, 042510 (2016), we present a systematic derivation of gradient corrections to the kinetic-energy functional and the one-particle density, in particular for two-dimensional systems. We derive the leading gradient corrections from a semiclassical expansion based on Wigner’s phase space formalism and demon- strate that the semiclassical kinetic-energy density functional at zero temperature cannot be evaluated unambiguously. In contrast, a density-potential functional description that effectively incorporates interactions provides unambiguous gradient corrections. Employing an averaging procedure that involves Airy functions, thereby partially resumming higher-order gradient corrections, we facilitate a smooth transition of the particle density into the classically forbidden region of arbitrary smooth potentials. We find excellent agreement of the semiclassical Airy-averaged particle densi- ties with the exact densities for very low but finite temperatures, illustrated for a Fermi gas with harmonic potential energy. We furthermore provide criteria for the applicability of the semiclassical expansions at low temperatures. Finally, we derive a well-behaved ground-state kinetic-energy functional, which improves on the Thomas-Fermi ap- proximation.