In principle, it is possible to model any physical system exactly using quantum mechanics; in practice, it quickly becomes infeasible. Recognising this, Richard Feynman suggested that quantum systems be used to model quantum problems [1]. For example, the fundamental problem faced in quantum chemistry is the calculation of molecular properties, which are of practical importance in fields ranging from materials science to biochemistry. Within chemical precision, the total energy of a molecule as well as most other properties, can be calculated by solving the Schrödinger equation. However, the computational resources required to obtain exact solutions on a conventional computer generally increase exponentially with the number of atoms involved [1, 2]. In the late 1990’s an efficient algorithm was proposed to enable a quantum processor to calculate molecular energies using resources that increase only polynomially in the molecular size [2–4]. Despite the many different physical architectures that have been explored experimentally since that time—including ions, atoms, superconducting circuits, and photons—this appealing algorithm has not been demonstrated to date.

© 2011 Optical Society of America

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