An Introduction to Quantum Error Correction and Fault-Tolerant Quantum Computation

Research paper by Daniel Gottesman

Indexed on: 16 Apr '09Published on: 16 Apr '09Published in: Quantum Physics


Quantum states are very delicate, so it is likely some sort of quantum error correction will be necessary to build reliable quantum computers. The theory of quantum error-correcting codes has some close ties to and some striking differences from the theory of classical error-correcting codes. Many quantum codes can be described in terms of the stabilizer of the codewords. The stabilizer is a finite Abelian group, and allows a straightforward characterization of the error-correcting properties of the code. The stabilizer formalism for quantum codes also illustrates the relationships to classical coding theory, particularly classical codes over GF(4), the finite field with four elements. To build a quantum computer which behaves correctly in the presence of errors, we also need a theory of fault-tolerant quantum computation, instructing us how to perform quantum gates on qubits which are encoded in a quantum error-correcting code. The threshold theorem states that it is possible to create a quantum computer to perform an arbitrary quantum computation provided the error rate per physical gate or time step is below some constant threshold value.