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  1. Abstract Quantum many-body systems away from equilibrium host a rich variety of exotic phenomena that are forbidden by equilibrium thermodynamics. A prominent example is that of discrete time crystals 1–8 , in which time-translational symmetry is spontaneously broken in periodically driven systems. Pioneering experiments have observed signatures of time crystalline phases with trapped ions 9,10 , solid-state spin systems 11–15 , ultracold atoms 16,17 and superconducting qubits 18–20 . Here we report the observation of a distinct type of non-equilibrium state of matter, Floquet symmetry-protected topological phases, which are implemented through digital quantum simulation with an array of programmable superconducting qubits. We observe robust long-lived temporal correlations and subharmonic temporal response for the edge spins over up to 40 driving cycles using a circuit of depth exceeding 240 and acting on 26 qubits. We demonstrate that the subharmonic response is independent of the initial state, and experimentally map out a phase boundary between the Floquet symmetry-protected topological and thermal phases. Our results establish a versatile digital simulation approach to exploring exotic non-equilibrium phases of matter with current noisy intermediate-scale quantum processors 21 .
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 21, 2023
  2. Experimental quantum simulators have become large and complex enough that discovering new physics from the huge amount of measurement data can be quite challenging, especially when little theoretical understanding of the simulated model is available. Unsupervised machine learning methods are particularly promising in overcoming this challenge. For the specific task of learning quantum phase transitions, unsupervised machine learning methods have primarily been developed for phase transitions characterized by simple order parameters, typically linear in the measured observables. However, such methods often fail for more complicated phase transitions, such as those involving incommensurate phases, valence-bond solids, topological order, and many-body localization. We show that the diffusion map method, which performs nonlinear dimensionality reduction and spectral clustering of the measurement data, has significant potential for learning such complex phase transitions unsupervised. This method works for measurements of local observables in a single basis and is thus readily applicable to many experimental quantum simulators as a versatile tool for learning various quantum phases and phase transitions.