Exploring constrained quantum control landscapes

Katharine W. Moore, Herschel Rabitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The broad success of optimally controlling quantum systems with external fields has been attributed to the favorable topology of the underlying control landscape, where the landscape is the physical observable as a function of the controls. The control landscape can be shown to contain no suboptimal trapping extrema upon satisfaction of reasonable physical assumptions, but this topological analysis does not hold when significant constraints are placed on the control resources. This work employs simulations to explore the topology and features of the control landscape for pure-state population transfer with a constrained class of control fields. The fields are parameterized in terms of a set of uniformly spaced spectral frequencies, with the associated phases acting as the controls. This restricted family of fields provides a simple illustration for assessing the impact of constraints upon seeking optimal control. Optimization results reveal that the minimum number of phase controls necessary to assure a high yield in the target state has a special dependence on the number of accessible energy levels in the quantum system, revealed from an analysis of the first- and second-order variation of the yield with respect to the controls. When an insufficient number of controls and/or a weak control fluence are employed, trapping extrema and saddle points are observed on the landscape. When the control resources are sufficiently flexible, solutions producing the globally maximal yield are found to form connected level sets of continuously variable control fields that preserve the yield. These optimal yield level sets are found to shrink to isolated points on the top of the landscape as the control field fluence is decreased, and further reduction of the fluence turns these points into suboptimal trapping extrema on the landscape. Although constrained control fields can come in many forms beyond the cases explored here, the behavior found in this paper is illustrative of the impacts that constraints can introduce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number134113
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number13
StatePublished - Oct 7 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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