The Complexity of Translationally Invariant Spin Chains with Low Local Dimension

Bausch, Johannes ; Cubitt, Toby ; Ozols, Maris (2017-11)


We prove that estimating the ground state energy of a translationally-invariant, nearest-neighbour Hamiltonian on a 1D spin chain is QMAEXP-complete, even for systems of low local dimension (roughly 40). This is an improvement over the best previously-known result by several orders of magnitude, and it shows that spin-glass-like frustration can occur in translationally-invariant quantum systems with a local dimension comparable to the smallest-known non-translationally-invariant systems with similar behaviour. While previous constructions of such systems rely on standard models of quantum computation, we construct a new model that is particularly well-suited for encoding quantum computation into the ground state of a translationally-invariant system. This allows us to shift the proof burden from optimizing the Hamiltonian encoding a standard computational model to proving universality of a simple model. Previous techniques for encoding quantum computation into the ground state of a local Hamiltonian allow only a linear sequence of gates, hence only a linear (or nearly linear) path in the graph of all computational states. We extend these techniques by allowing significantly more general paths, including branching and cycles, thus enabling a highly efficient encoding of our computational model. However, this requires more sophisticated techniques for analysing the spectrum of the resulting Hamiltonian. To address this, we introduce a framework of graphs with unitary edge labels. After relating our Hamiltonian to the Laplacian of such a unitary labelled graph, we analyse its spectrum by combining matrix analysis and spectral graph theory techniques.