Digital quantum simulation of molecular dynamics and control
Optimally-shaped electromagnetic fields have the capacity to coherently control the dynamics of quantum systems and thus offer a promising means for controlling molecular transformations relevant to chemical, biological, and materials applications. Currently, advances in this area are hindered by the prohibitive cost of the quantum dynamics simulations needed to explore the principles and possibilities of molecular control. However, the emergence of nascent quantum-computing devices suggests that efficient simulations of quantum dynamics may be on the horizon. In this article, we study how quantum computers could be employed to design optimally-shaped fields to control molecular systems. We introduce a hybrid algorithm that utilizes a quantum computer for simulating the field-induced quantum dynamics of a molecular system in polynomial time, in combination with a classical optimization approach for updating the field. Qubit encoding methods relevant for molecular control problems are described, and procedures for simulating the quantum dynamics and obtaining the simulation results are discussed. Numerical illustrations are then presented that explicitly treat paradigmatic vibrational and rotational control problems, and also consider how optimally-shaped fields could be used to elucidate the mechanisms of energy transfer in light-harvesting complexes. Resource estimates, as well as a numerical assessment of the impact of hardware noise and the prospects of near-term hardware implementations, are provided for the latter task.