Quantum-control-landscape structure viewed along straight paths through the space of control fields

Arun Nanduri, Tak San Ho, Herschel Rabitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The dynamics of closed quantum systems may be manipulated by using an applied field to achieve a control objective value for a physical goal. The functional relationship between the applied field and the objective value forms a quantum control landscape, and the optimization process consists of a guided climb up the landscape from the bottom to the top. Two classes of landscape features are important for understanding the ease of finding an optimal control field. The first class of topological landscape features has been proven to be especially simple in that no suboptimal local maxima exist (upon satisfaction of certain assumptions), which partially accounts for the ease of finding optimal fields. Complementary to the topology, the second class of features entails the landscape structure, characterizing the sinuous nature of the paths leading to an optimal control field. Previous work found that the landscape structure is also particularly simple, as excursions up the landscape guided by a gradient algorithm correspond to nearly straight paths through the space of control fields. In this paper we take an alternative approach to examining landscape structure by constructing, and then following, exactly straight trajectories in control space. Each trajectory starts at a corresponding point on the bottom of the landscape and ends at an associated point on the top, with the observable values taken either as the state-to-state transition probability, the expectation value of a general observable, or the distance from a desired unitary transformation. In some cases the starting point is at a suboptimal critical-point saddle, with the goal, again, of following a straight field path to the optimal objective yield or another suboptimal critical point. We find that the objective value almost always rises monotonically upon following a straight control path from one critical point to another, which shows that landscape structure is very simple, being devoid of rough bumps and gnarled "twists and turns". An analysis reveals that the generally featureless nature of quantum control landscapes can be understood in terms of the occurrence of many interfering quantum pathways contributing while traversing the landscape, essentially smoothing out the terrain. These results also provide a basis for further studies to seek a new efficient algorithm to discover optimal fields by means of taking into account the inherently smooth landscape structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number023427
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 25 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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