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Nearly Linear Light Cones in Long-Range Interacting Quantum Systems

Artistic depiction of propagation of information in a quantum system. Credit: E. Edwards/JQI

If you’re designing a new computer, you want it to solve problems as fast as possible. Just how fast is possible is an open question when it comes to quantum computers, but PFC supported physicists have developed a new mathematical proof that reveals a much tighter limit on how fast quantum information can propagate.

The work offers a better description of how quickly information can travel within a system built of quantum particles such as a group of individual atoms. Engineers will need to know this to build quantum computers, which will have vastly different designs and be able to solve certain problems much more easily than the computers of today. While the new finding does not give an exact speed for how fast information will be able to travel in these as-yet-unbuilt computers—a longstanding question—it does place a far tighter constraint on where this speed limit could be.

The team’s findings advance a line of research that stretches back to the 1970s, when scientists discovered a limit on how quickly information could travel if a suspended particle only could communicate directly with its next-door neighbors. Since then, technology advanced to the point where scientists could investigate whether a particle might directly influence others that are more distant, a potential advantage. By 2005, theoretical studies incorporating this idea had increased the speed limit dramatically.

The 2005 results indicated that even if the interaction strength decays quickly with distance, as a system grows, the time needed for entanglement to propagate through it grows only logarithmically with its size, implying that a system could get entangled very quickly. The team’s proof, however, shows that propagation time grows as a power of its size, a result far closer to the speed limits suggested by the 1970s result.

M. Foss-Feig, Z.X. Gong, C.W. Clark, A.V. Gorshkov
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