The optimization landscape of hybrid quantum–classical algorithms: From quantum control to NISQ applications

Xiaozhen Ge, Re Bing Wu, Herschel Rabitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This review investigates the landscapes of hybrid quantum–classical optimization algorithms that are prevalent in many rapidly developing quantum technologies, where the objective function is computed by either a natural quantum system or an engineered quantum ansatz, but the optimizer is classical. In any particular case, the nature of the underlying control landscape is fundamentally important for systematic optimization of the objective. In early studies on the optimal control of few-body dynamics, the optimizer could take full control of the relatively low-dimensional quantum systems to be manipulated. Stepping into the noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) era, the experimentally growing computational power of the ansatz expressed as quantum hardware may bring quantum advantage over classical computers, but the classical optimizer is often limited by the available control resources. Across these different scales, we will show that the landscape's geometry experiences morphological changes from favorable trap-free landscapes to easily trapping rugged landscapes, and eventually to barren-plateau landscapes on which the optimizer can hardly move. This unified view provides the basis for understanding classes of systems that may be readily controlled out to those with special consideration, including the difficulties and potential advantages of NISQ technologies, as well as seeking possible ways to escape traps or plateaus, in particular circumstances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-323
Number of pages10
JournalAnnual Reviews in Control
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering


  • Optimization landscape
  • Quantum control
  • Variational quantum algorithm


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