Exploring the Scaling Limitations of the Variational Quantum Eigensolver with the Bond Dissociation of Hydride Diatomic Molecules

Jacob Clary, Eric Jones, Derek Vigil-Fowler, Christopher Chang, Peter Graf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus Citations


Materials simulations involving strongly correlated electrons pose fundamental challenges to state-of-the-art electronic structure methods but are hypothesized to be the ideal use case for quantum computing algorithms. To date, no quantum computer has simulated a molecule of a size and complexity relevant to real-world applications, despite the fact that the variational quantum eigensolver (VQE) algorithm can predict chemically accurate total energies. Nevertheless, because of the many applications of moderately sized, strongly correlated systems, such as molecular catalysts, the successful use of the VQE stands as an important waypoint in the advancement toward useful chemical modeling on near-term quantum processors. In this paper, we take a significant step in this direction. We lay out the steps, write, and run parallel code for an (emulated) quantum computer to compute the bond dissociation curves of the TiH, LiH, NaH, and KH diatomic hydride molecules using the VQE. TiH was chosen as a relatively simple chemical system that incorporates d orbitals and strong electron correlation. Because current VQE implementations on existing quantum hardware are limited by qubit error rates, the number of qubits available, and the allowable gate depth, recent studies using it have focused on chemical systems involving s and p block elements. Through VQE + UCCSD calculations of TiH, we evaluate the near-term feasibility of modeling a molecule with d-orbitals on real quantum hardware. We demonstrate that the inclusion of d-orbitals and the use of the UCCSD ansatz, which are both necessary to capture the correct TiH physics, dramatically increase the cost of this problem. We estimate the approximate error rates necessary to model TiH on current quantum computing hardware using VQE + UCCSD and show them to likely be prohibitive until significant improvements in hardware and error correction algorithms are available.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere27097
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Quantum Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

See NREL/JA-2C00-83528 for preprint

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2C00-85226


  • computational catalysis
  • quantum computing
  • TiH
  • variational quantum eigensolver


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