Matchgates and classical simulation of quantum circuits
Let G(A, B) denote the two-qubit gate that acts as the one-qubit SU(2) gates A and B in the even and odd parity subspaces, respectively, of two qubits. Using a Clifford algebra formalism, we show that arbitrary uniform families of circuits of these gates, restricted to act only on nearest neighbour (n.n.) qubit lines, can be classically efficiently simulated. This reproduces a result originally proved by Valiant using his matchgate formalism, and subsequently related by others to free fermionic physics. We further show that if the n.n. condition is slightly relaxed, to allow the same gates to act only on n.n. and next n.n. qubit lines, then the resulting circuits can efficiently perform universal quantum computation. From this point of view, the gap between efficient classical and quantum computational power is bridged by a very modest use of a seemingly innocuous resource (qubit swapping). We also extend the simulation result above in various ways. In particular, by exploiting properties of Clifford operations in conjunction with the Jordan–Wigner representation of a Clifford algebra, we show how one may generalize the simulation result above to provide further classes of classically efficiently simulatable quantum circuits, which we call Gaussian quantum circuits.