Control landscapes are almost always trap free: A geometric assessment

Benjamin Russell, Herschel Rabitz, Re Bing Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


A proof is presented that almost all closed, finite dimensional quantum systems have trap free (i.e. free from local optima) landscapes for a large and physically general class of circumstances, which includes qubit evolutions in quantum computing. This result offers an explanation for why gradient-based methods succeed so frequently in quantum control. The role of singular controls is analyzed using geometric tools in the case of the control of the propagator, and thus in the case of observables as well. Singular controls have been implicated as a source of landscape traps. The conditions under which singular controls can introduce traps, and thus interrupt the progress of a control optimization, are discussed and a geometrical characterization of the issue is presented. It is shown that a control being singular is not sufficient to cause control optimization progress to halt, and sufficient conditions for a trap free landscape are presented. It is further shown that the local surjectivity (full rank) assumption of landscape analysis can be refined to the condition that the end-point map is transverse to each of the level sets of the fidelity function. This mild condition is shown to be sufficient for a quantum system's landscape to be trap free. The control landscape is shown to be trap free for all but a null set of Hamiltonians using a geometric technique based on the parametric transversality theorem. Numerical evidence confirming this analysis is also presented. This new result is the analogue of the work of Altifini, wherein it was shown that controllability holds for all but a null set of quantum systems in the dipole approximation. These collective results indicate that the availability of adequate control resources remains the most physically relevant issue for achieving high fidelity control performance while also avoiding landscape traps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number205302
JournalJournal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical
Issue number20
StatePublished - Apr 24 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Mathematical Physics
  • General Physics and Astronomy


  • control landscapes
  • landscape traps
  • optimal control
  • optimization
  • parametric transversality theorem
  • quantum control
  • quantum control landscapes


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