Progress toward favorable landscapes in quantum combinatorial optimization

Juneseo Lee, Alicia B. Magann, Herschel A. Rabitz, Christian Arenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The performance of variational quantum algorithms relies on the success of using quantum and classical computing resources in tandem. Here, we study how these quantum and classical components interrelate. In particular, we focus on algorithms for solving the combinatorial optimization problem MaxCut, and study how the structure of the classical optimization landscape relates to the quantum circuit used to evaluate the MaxCut objective function. In order to analytically characterize the impact of quantum features on the critical points of the landscape, we consider a family of quantum circuit ansätze composed of mutually commuting elements. We identify multiqubit operations as a key resource and show that overparameterization allows for obtaining favorable landscapes. Namely, we prove that an ansatz from this family containing exponentially many variational parameters yields a landscape free of local optima for generic graphs. However, we further prove that these ansätze do not offer superpolynomial advantages over purely classical MaxCut algorithms. We then present a series of numerical experiments illustrating that noncommutativity and entanglement are important features for improving algorithm performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number032401
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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