Probing the lowest energy configuration of a complex system by quantum annealing was recently found to be more effective than its classical, thermal counterpart. By comparing classical and quantum Monte Carlo annealing protocols on the two-dimensional random Ising model (a prototype spin glass), we confirm the superiority of quantum annealing relative to classical annealing. We also propose a theory of quantum annealing based on cascade of Landau-Zener tunneling events. For both classical and quantum annealing, the residual energy after annealing is inversely proportional to a power of the logarithm of the annealing time, but the quantum case has a larger power that makes it faster.
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