Intuitively, if a density operator has small rank, then it should be easier
to estimate from experimental data, since in this case only a few eigenvectors
need to be learned. We prove two complementary results that confirm this
intuition. First, we show that a low-rank density matrix can be estimated using
fewer copies of the state, i.e., the sample complexity of tomography decreases
with the rank. Second, we show that unknown low-rank states can be
reconstructed from an incomplete set of measurements, using techniques from
compressed sensing and matrix completion. These techniques use simple Pauli
measurements, and their output can be certified without making any assumptions
about the unknown state.
We give a new theoretical analysis of compressed tomography, based on the
restricted isometry property (RIP) for low-rank matrices. Using these tools, we
obtain near-optimal error bounds, for the realistic situation where the data
contains noise due to finite statistics, and the density matrix is full-rank
with decaying eigenvalues. We also obtain upper-bounds on the sample complexity
of compressed tomography, and almost-matching lower bounds on the sample
complexity of any procedure using adaptive sequences of Pauli measurements.
Using numerical simulations, we compare the performance of two compressed
sensing estimators with standard maximum-likelihood estimation (MLE). We find
that, given comparable experimental resources, the compressed sensing
estimators consistently produce higher-fidelity state reconstructions than MLE.
In addition, the use of an incomplete set of measurements leads to faster
classical processing with no loss of accuracy.
Finally, we show how to certify the accuracy of a low rank estimate using
direct fidelity estimation and we describe a method for compressed quantum
process tomography that works for processes with small Kraus rank.