Counterfactual quantum computation through quantum interrogation

Onur Hosten, Matthew T. Rakher, Julio T. Barreiro, Nicholas A. Peters, Paul G. Kwiat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The logic underlying the coherent nature of quantum information processing often deviates from intuitive reasoning, leading to surprising effects. Counterfactual computation constitutes a striking example: the potential outcome of a quantum computation can be inferred, even if the computer is not run 1. Relying on similar arguments to interaction-free measurements 2 (or quantum interrogation3), counterfactual computation is accomplished by putting the computer in a superposition of 'running' and 'not running' states, and then interfering the two histories. Conditional on the as-yet-unknown outcome of the computation, it is sometimes possible to counterfactually infer information about the solution. Here we demonstrate counterfactual computation, implementing Grover's search algorithm with an all-optical approach4. It was believed that the overall probability of such counterfactual inference is intrinsically limited1,5, so that it could not perform better on average than random guesses. However, using a novel 'chained' version of the quantum Zeno effect6, we show how to boost the counterfactual inference probability to unity, thereby beating the random guessing limit. Our methods are general and apply to any physical system, as illustrated by a discussion of trapped-ion systems. Finally, we briefly show that, in certain circumstances, counterfactual computation can eliminate errors induced by decoherence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)949-952
Number of pages4
Issue number7079
StatePublished - Feb 23 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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