Efficient tomography of a quantum many-body system

B. P. Lanyon, C. Maier, M. Holzäpfel, T. Baumgratz, C. Hempel, P. Jurcevic, I. Dhand, A. S. Buyskikh, A. J. Daley, M. Cramer, M B Plenio, R. Blatt, C. F. Roos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

55 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


Quantum state tomography (QST) is the gold standard technique for obtaining an estimate for the state of small quantum systems in the laboratory [1]. Its application to systems with more than a few constituents (e.g. particles) soon becomes impractical as the e ff ort required grows exponentially with the number of constituents. Developing more e ffi cient techniques is particularly pressing as precisely-controllable quantum systems that are well beyond the reach of QST are emerging in laboratories. Motivated by this, there is a considerable ongoing e ff ort to develop new state characterisation tools for quantum many-body systems [2–11]. Here we demonstrate Matrix Product State (MPS) tomography [2], which is theoretically proven to allow the states of a broad class of quantum systems to be accurately estimated with an e ff ort that increases e ffi ciently with constituent number. We use the technique to reconstruct the dynamical state of a trapped-ion quantum simulator comprising up to 14 entangled and individually-controlled spins (qubits): a size far beyond the practical limits of QST. Our results reveal the dynamical growth of entanglement and description complexity as correlations spread out during a quench: a necessary condition for future beyond-classical performance. MPS tomography should therefore find widespread use to study large quantum many-body systems and to benchmark and verify quantum simulators and computers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1158–1162
Number of pages23
JournalNature Physics
Early online date4 Sep 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Sep 2017


  • quantum state tomography
  • small quantum systems
  • matrix product state (MPS) tomography


Cite this

Lanyon, B. P., Maier, C., Holzäpfel, M., Baumgratz, T., Hempel, C., Jurcevic, P., Dhand, I., Buyskikh, A. S., Daley, A. J., Cramer, M., Plenio, M. B., Blatt, R., & Roos, C. F. (2017). Efficient tomography of a quantum many-body system. Nature Physics, 13, 1158–1162. https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys4244