Communications in Mathematical Physics

, Volume 310, Issue 2, pp 419–454 | Cite as

Index Theory of One Dimensional Quantum Walks and Cellular Automata

  • D. GrossEmail author
  • V. Nesme
  • H. Vogts
  • R. F. Werner


If a one-dimensional quantum lattice system is subject to one step of a reversible discrete-time dynamics, it is intuitive that as much “quantum information” as moves into any given block of cells from the left, has to exit that block to the right. For two types of such systems — namely quantum walks and cellular automata — we make this intuition precise by defining an index, a quantity that measures the “net flow of quantum information” through the system. The index supplies a complete characterization of two properties of the discrete dynamics. First, two systems S 1, S 2 can be “pieced together”, in the sense that there is a system S which acts like S 1 in one region and like S 2 in some other region, if and only if S 1 and S 2 have the same index. Second, the index labels connected components of such systems: equality of the index is necessary and sufficient for the existence of a continuous deformation of S 1 into S 2. In the case of quantum walks, the index is integer-valued, whereas for cellular automata, it takes values in the group of positive rationals. In both cases, the map \({S \mapsto {\rm ind} S}\) is a group homomorphism if composition of the discrete dynamics is taken as the group law of the quantum systems. Systems with trivial index are precisely those which can be realized by partitioned unitaries, and the prototypes of systems with non-trivial index are shifts.


Cellular Automaton Index Theory Quantum Walk Full Matrix Algebra Quantum Cellular Automaton 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Inst. f. Theoretical Physics, Univ. HannoverHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Inst. f. Theoretical Physics, ETH ZürichZürichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Univ. Potsdam, Inst. f. PhysikPotsdam-GolmGermany

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