Understanding strongly-correlated matter using quantum computers

University of Nottingham / Physics and Astronomy

The interplay of quantum fluctuations and correlations is at the heart of many open questions in condensed matter physics. These range from understanding how to design new materials with desirable properties, to more fundamental questions of how the world we see around us emerges from the quantum mechanical behaviour of countless microscopic particles. However, the answers are currently out of the reach of our most sophisticated analytical and numerical techniques. This project aims to harness the remarkable recent progress in quantum computing technology to develop new approaches to tackle these open questions.

Dr Adam Smith

One of the central goals in condensed matter physics is to understand the possible phases of matter. While familiar examples—such as water and ice—are well understood, new strongly-correlated quantum phases could impact modern technology and improve our lives. For example, high-temperature superconductivity, if achieved at room temperature, promises to revolutionise our society by making our transport, computers, and power supplies faster, more energy efficient, and cheaper to run. Such strongly-correlated phenomena generically do not have any classical analogues but are instead characterised by their quantum many-body entanglement, and thus quickly become prohibitively difficult to study using current methods.

Excitingly, the past few years have witnessed a breakthrough in the development of quantum computers, which may provide the tools we need to advance our understanding of strongly-correlated matter. Devices, beyond proof-of-principal, are now available and being employed for real world applications. Cross-disciplinary efforts to realise and understand these devices are also providing novel insights into the structure of quantum states.

This research will focus on the development of quantum algorithms that will build on our most successful numerical techniques but will be tailored to the new capabilities of these quantum devices. Two complementary approaches will be employed: tackling problems that can be solved exactly using a quantum computer, and exploring approximate solutions to more challenging and general questions. This ambitious project offers the opportunity to lead at the forefront of an exciting emerging field, to further our understanding of strongly-correlated materials, and to provide new tools to help answer important unresolved questions in many-body quantum physics.