During the last two years, the Google Quantum AI team has made progress in understanding the physics governing quantum annealers. We recently applied these new insights to construct proof-of-principle optimization problems and programmed these into the D-Wave 2X quantum annealer that Google operates jointly with NASA. The problems were designed to demonstrate that quantum annealing can offer runtime advantages for hard optimization problems characterized by rugged energy landscapes.
We found that for problem instances involving nearly 1000 binary variables, quantum annealing significantly outperforms its classical counterpart, simulated annealing. It is more than 108 times faster than simulated annealing running on a single core. We also compared the quantum hardware to another algorithm called Quantum Monte Carlo. This is a method designed to emulate the behavior of quantum systems, but it runs on conventional processors. While the scaling with size between these two methods is comparable, they are again separated by a large factor sometimes as high as 10^8.
What is the Computational Value of Finite Range Tunneling?
Denchev et al
Quantum annealing (QA) has been proposed as a quantum enhanced optimization heuristic exploiting tunneling. Here, we demonstrate how finite range tunneling can provide considerable computational advantage. For a crafted problem designed to have tall and narrow energy barriers separating local minima, the D-Wave 2X quantum annealer achieves significant runtime advantages relative to Simulated Annealing (SA). For instances with 945 variables this results in a time-to-99\%-success-probability that is ∼108 times faster than SA running on a single processor core. We also compared physical QA with Quantum Monte Carlo (QMC), an algorithm that emulates quantum tunneling on classical processors. We observe a substantial constant overhead against physical QA: D-Wave 2X runs up to ∼108 times faster than an optimized implementation of QMC on a single core. To investigate whether finite range tunneling will also confer an advantage for problems of practical interest, we conduct numerical studies on binary optimization problems that cannot yet be represented on quantum hardware. For random instances of the number partitioning problem, we find numerically that QMC, as well as other algorithms designed to simulate QA, scale better than SA and better than the best known classical algorithms for this problem. We discuss the implications of these findings for the design of next generation quantum annealers.