A quantum simulator is a restricted class of quantum computer that controls the interactions between quantum bits in a way that can be mapped to certain difficult quantum many-body problems. As more control is exerted over larger numbers of qubits, the simulator can tackle a wider range of problems, with the ultimate limit being a universal quantum computer that can solve general classes of hard problems. We use a quantum simulator composed of up to 53 qubits to study a non-equilibrium phase transition in the transverse field Ising model of magnetism, in a regime where conventional statistical mechanics does not apply. The qubits are represented by trapped ion spins that can be prepared in a variety of initial pure states. We apply a global long-range Ising interaction with controllable strength and range, and measure each individual qubit with near 99% efficiency. This allows the single-shot measurement of arbitrary many-body correlations for the direct probing of the dynamical phase transition and the uncovering of computationally intractable features that rely on the long-range interactions and high connectivity between the qubits.

1 aZhang, J.1 aPagano, G.1 aHess, P., W.1 aKyprianidis, A.1 aBecker, P.1 aKaplan, H.1 aGorshkov, Alexey, V.1 aGong, Z., -X.1 aMonroe, C. uhttps://www.nature.com/articles/nature2465402050nas a2200205 4500008004100000245008900041210006900130260001500199520143900214100001801653700001401671700001601685700001401701700001701715700001701732700001801749700002501767700001501792856003701807 2016 eng d00a{O}bservation of {P}rethermalization in {L}ong-{R}ange {I}nteracting {S}pin {C}hains0 aO bservation of P rethermalization in L ong R ange I nteracting c2016/08/023 aStatistical mechanics can predict thermal equilibrium states for most classical systems, but for an isolated quantum system there is no general understanding on how equilibrium states dynamically emerge from the microscopic Hamiltonian. For instance, quantum systems that are near-integrable usually fail to thermalize in an experimentally realistic time scale and, instead, relax to quasi-stationary prethermal states that can be described by statistical mechanics when approximately conserved quantities are appropriately included in a generalized Gibbs ensemble (GGE). Here we experimentally study the relaxation dynamics of a chain of up to 22 spins evolving under a long-range transverse field Ising Hamiltonian following a sudden quench. For sufficiently long-ranged interactions the system relaxes to a new type of prethermal state that retains a strong memory of the initial conditions. In this case, the prethermal state cannot be described by a GGE, but rather arises from an emergent double-well potential felt by the spin excitations. This result shows that prethermalization occurs in a significantly broader context than previously thought, and reveals new challenges for a generic understanding of the thermalization of quantum systems, particularly in the presence of long-range interactions.

1 aNeyenhuis, B.1 aSmith, J.1 aLee, A., C.1 aZhang, J.1 aRicherme, P.1 aHess, P., W.1 aGong, Z., -X.1 aGorshkov, Alexey, V.1 aMonroe, C. uhttps://arxiv.org/abs/1608.00681