Characterizing Errors in Quantum Information Processors
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Error-free computation is an unattainable ideal, yet our world now contains many computers that appear error-free to their users. That such things are possible is explained by sophisticated theorems that demonstrate the possibility of efficiently reducing computational errors introduced by reasonably well-behaved noise. My thesis is about the problem of determining whether noise in prototype quantum information processors is sufficiently well-behaved for fault-tolerant quantum computing to be possible. My work is divided into two themes. The first theme is the interpretation of average gate fidelity, a quantity that has become the standard performance metric for assessing progress towards fault tolerance. I have elucidated the connection between average gate fidelity and the requirements of fault-tolerant quantum computing by demonstrating the limits of fidelity as a proxy for error rate, the usual metric in fault-tolerance literature. I thereby conclude that information additional to fidelity is required to assess progress towards fault-tolerance. The second theme is the characterization of two-level defect systems, a particularly deleterious kind of noise that can affect superconducting-integrated-circuit-based quantum computing prototypes. I have designed statistical experimental design algorithms that can rigorously assess the influence of these defect systems, and I helped develop a proposal to mitigate their influence. I thereby demonstrate that existing experimental techniques can become much more powerful by employing advanced data collection procedures. My work has immediate implications for current research efforts towards the first working quantum computer. Theoretical work should be directed at assessing noise sources using metrics other than average gate fidelity, and future experimental characterization techniques should become more modular in order to incorporate advanced statistical inference techniques like the ones I develop herein.