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Nat Commun. 2013;4:2067. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3067.

Experimental signature of programmable quantum annealing.

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Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA.


Quantum annealing is a general strategy for solving difficult optimization problems with the aid of quantum adiabatic evolution. Both analytical and numerical evidence suggests that under idealized, closed system conditions, quantum annealing can outperform classical thermalization-based algorithms such as simulated annealing. Current engineered quantum annealing devices have a decoherence timescale which is orders of magnitude shorter than the adiabatic evolution time. Do they effectively perform classical thermalization when coupled to a decohering thermal environment? Here we present an experimental signature which is consistent with quantum annealing, and at the same time inconsistent with classical thermalization. Our experiment uses groups of eight superconducting flux qubits with programmable spin-spin couplings, embedded on a commercially available chip with >100 functional qubits. This suggests that programmable quantum devices, scalable with current superconducting technology, implement quantum annealing with a surprising robustness against noise and imperfections.


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