Motivated by the quantum adiabatic algorithm (QAA), we consider the scaling of the Hamiltonian gap at quantum first-order transitions, generally expected to be exponentially small in the size of the system. However, we show that a quantum antiferromagnetic Ising chain in a staggered field can exhibit a first-order transition with only an algebraically small gap. In addition, we construct a simple classical translationally invariant one-dimensional Hamiltonian containing nearest-neighbor interactions only, which exhibits an exponential gap at a thermodynamic quantum first-order transition of essentially topological origin. This establishes that (i) the QAA can be successful even across first-order transitions but also that (ii)it can fail on exceedingly simple problems readily solved by inspection, or by classical annealing.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy(all)