pulse_odegen(tape, argnum=None, atol=1e-07)[source]

Transform a circuit to compute the pulse generator parameter-shift gradient of pulses in a pulse program with respect to their inputs. This method combines automatic differentiation of few-qubit operations with hardware-compatible shift rules. It allows for the evaluation of parameter-shift gradients for many-qubit pulse programs on hardware, with the limitation that the individual pulses must be acting on a sufficiently small number of qubits.

For this differentiation method, the unitary matrix \(U\) of a pulse gate and its derivative \(\partial_k U\) are computed classically with an autodiff framework. From \(\partial_k U\) and \(U\) we can deduce the so-called effective generators \(\Omega_{k}\) assuming the form

\[\partial_k U = U \Omega_k.\]

These effective generators are then decomposed into the Pauli basis and the standard parameter-shift rule is used to evaluate the derivatives of the pulse program in this basis.

To this end, shifted PauliRot operations are inserted in the program. Finally, the Pauli basis derivatives are recombined into the gradient of the pulse program with respect to its original parameters. See the theoretical background section below for more details.

  • tape (QuantumTape) – quantum circuit to differentiate

  • argnum (int or list[int] or None) – Trainable tape parameter indices to differentiate with respect to. If not provided, the derivatives with respect to all trainable parameters are returned.

  • atol (float) – Precision parameter used to truncate the Pauli basis coefficients of the effective generators. Coefficients x satisfying qml.math.isclose(x, 0., atol=atol, rtol=0) == True are neglected.


The transformed circuit as described in qml.transform. Executing this circuit will provide the Jacobian in the form of a tensor, a tuple, or a nested tuple depending upon the nesting structure of measurements in the original circuit.

Return type

tuple[List[QuantumTape], function]


This function requires the JAX interface and does not work with other autodiff interfaces commonly encountered with PennyLane. In addition, this transform is only JIT-compatible with pulses that only have scalar parameters.


This transform may not be applied directly to QNodes. Use JAX entrypoints (jax.grad, jax.jacobian, …) instead or apply the transform on the tape level. Also see the examples below.


Consider the parameterized Hamiltonian \(\theta_0 Y_{0}+f(\boldsymbol{\theta_1}, t) Y_{1} + \theta_2 Z_{0}X_{1}\) with parameters \(\theta_0 = \frac{1}{5}\), \(\boldsymbol{\theta_1}=\left(\frac{3}{5}, \frac{1}{5}\right)^{T}\) and \(\theta_2 = \frac{2}{5}\), the time-dependent function \(f(\boldsymbol{\theta_1}, t) = \theta_{1,0} t + \theta_{1,1}\) as well as a time interval \(t=\left[\frac{1}{10}, \frac{9}{10}\right]\).

jax.config.update("jax_enable_x64", True)
H = (
    qml.pulse.constant * qml.PauliY(0)
    + jnp.polyval * qml.PauliY(1)
    + qml.pulse.constant * (qml.PauliZ(0) @ qml.PauliX(1))
params = [jnp.array(0.2), jnp.array([0.6, 0.2]), jnp.array(0.4)]
t = [0.1, 0.9]

For simplicity, consider a pulse program consisting of this single pulse and a measurement of the expectation value of \(X_{0}\).

dev = qml.device("default.qubit.jax", wires=2)

@qml.qnode(dev, interface="jax", diff_method=qml.gradients.pulse_odegen)
def circuit(params):
    op = qml.evolve(H)(params, t)
    return qml.expval(qml.PauliX(0))

We registered the QNode to be differentiated with the pulse_odegen method. This allows us to simply differentiate it with jax.grad, which internally makes use of the pulse generator parameter-shift method.

>>> jax.grad(circuit)(params)
[Array(1.41897932, dtype=float64, weak_type=True),
 Array([0.00164913, 0.00284788], dtype=float64),
 Array(-0.09984584, dtype=float64, weak_type=True)]

Alternatively, we may apply the transform to the tape of the pulse program, obtaining the tapes with inserted PauliRot gates together with the post-processing function:

>>> circuit.construct((params,), {}) # Build the tape of the circuit.
>>> tapes, fun = qml.gradients.pulse_odegen(circuit.tape, argnums=[0, 1, 2])
>>> len(tapes)

Why are there \(12\) tapes? Consider the terms in the time-dependent pulse Hamiltonian: \(\{Y_0, Y_1, Z_0X_1\}\). Via the Lie bracket, which is just the standard matrix commutator, they generate an algebra, the so-called dynamical Lie algebra (DLA) of the pulse. In order to find all Pauli words that occur in the DLA, we need to (recursively) calculate all possible commutators between the three words above and their commutators. For the three words above, we obtain three additional words:

\[\begin{split}[Y_0, Z_0X_1] &\propto X_0X_1 \\ [Y_1, Z_0X_1] &\propto Z_0Z_1 \\ [Y_0, Z_0Z_1] &\propto X_0Z_1\end{split}\]

All other commutators result in expressions proportional to one of the six Pauli words. For each of these six words, we need to compute the standard parameter-shift rule requiring two shifted circuits, which yields \(12\) tapes.

We may inspect one of the tapes, which differs from the original tape by the inserted rotation gate "RIY", i.e. a PauliRot(np.pi/2, "IY", wires=[0, 1]) gate. Note that the order of the tapes follows lexicographical ordering of the inserted Pauli rotations, so that \(Y_1\) is the first of the six words.

>>> print(qml.drawer.tape_text(tapes[0]))
0: ─╭RIY─╭ParametrizedEvolution─┤  <X>
1: ─╰RIY─╰ParametrizedEvolution─┤

Executing the tapes and applying the post-processing function to the results then yields the gradient:

>>> fun(qml.execute(tapes, dev))
(Array(1.41897932, dtype=float64),
 Array([0.00164913, 0.00284788], dtype=float64),
 Array(-0.09984584, dtype=float64))


For pulse Hamiltonians with complex generating terms and few parameters, the decomposition approach taken in this method may incur more (quantum and classical) computational cost than strictly necessary.

The pulse generator parameter-shift gradient method makes use of the effective generator of a pulse for given parameters and duration. Consider the parametrized Hamiltonian

\[H(\boldsymbol{\theta}, t) = \sum_{k=1}^K f_k(\boldsymbol{\theta}, t) H_k\]

where the Hamiltonian terms \(\{H_k\}\) are constant and the \(\{f_k\}\) are parametrized time-dependent functions depending on the parameters \(\boldsymbol{\theta}\). The unitary time evolution operator associated with \(H\) is the solution to the Schrödinger equation

\[\frac{\mathrm{d} U}{\mathrm{d} t}(t) = -i H(\boldsymbol{\theta}, t) U(t), \quad U(0) = \mathbb{I}\]

For a fixed time interval \([t_0, t_1]\), we associate a matrix function \(U(\boldsymbol{\theta})\) with the unitary evolution. To compute the pulse generator parameter-shift gradient, we are interested in the partial derivatives of this matrix function, usually with respect to the parameters \(\boldsymbol{\theta}\). Provided that \(H\) does not act on too many qubits, or that we have an alternative sparse representation of \(U(\boldsymbol{\theta})\), we may compute these partial derivatives

\[\frac{\partial U(\boldsymbol{\theta})}{\partial \theta_{k}}\]

classically via automatic differentiation, where \(\theta_{k}\) is the \(k\)-th (scalar) parameter in \(\boldsymbol{\theta}\).

Now, due to the compactness of the groups \(\mathrm{SU}(N)\), we know that for each \(\theta_{k}\) there is an effective generator \(\Omega_{k}\) such that

\[\frac{\partial U(\boldsymbol{\theta})}{\partial \theta_{k}} = U(\boldsymbol{\theta})\Omega_{k}.\]

Given that we can compute the left-hand side expression as well as the matrix for \(U\) itself, we can compute \(\Omega_{k}\) for all parameters \(\theta_{k}\). In addition, we may decompose these generators into Pauli words:

\[\Omega_{k} = \sum_{\ell=1}^{L} \omega_{k}^{(\ell)} P_{\ell}\]

The coefficients \(\omega_{k}^{(\ell)}\) of the generators can be computed by decomposing the anti-Hermitian matrix \(\Omega_{k}\) into the Pauli basis and only keeping the non-vanishing terms. This is possible via a tensor contraction with the full Pauli basis (or alternative, more efficient methods):

\[\omega_{k}^{(\ell)} = \frac{1}{2^N}\mathrm{Tr}\left[P_\ell \Omega_{k}\right]\]

where \(N\) is the number of qubits and \(\ell = 1, .. , L\) the Pauli word index. The number of non-zero Pauli words \(L\) is typically equal to the dimension of the dynamical Lie algebra (can be lower if coefficients happen to be zero) and at most \(4^N-1\).

Thus far, we discussed the derivative of the time evolution, or pulse. Now, consider an objective function that is based on measuring an expectation value after executing a pulse program:

\[C(\boldsymbol{\theta})= \langle\psi_0|U(\boldsymbol{\theta})^\dagger B U(\boldsymbol{\theta}) |\psi_0\rangle\]

Using the derivative of \(U\) and the decomposition of the effective generator \(\Omega_k\) above, we calculate the partial derivative of \(C\):

\[\begin{split}\frac{\partial C}{\partial \theta_{k}} (\boldsymbol{\theta})&= \langle\psi_0|\left[U^\dagger B U, \Omega_{k}\right]|\psi_0\rangle\\ &=\sum_{\ell=1}^L \omega_{k}^{(\ell)} \langle\psi_0|\left[U^\dagger B U, P_\ell \right]|\psi_0\rangle\\ &=\sum_{\ell=1}^L \tilde\omega_{k}^{(\ell)} \langle\psi_0|\left[U^\dagger B U, -\frac{i}{2}P_\ell \right]|\psi_0\rangle\\ &=\sum_{\ell=1}^L \tilde\omega_{k}^{(\ell)} \frac{\mathrm{d}}{\mathrm{d}x} \langle\psi_0|\exp\left(i\frac{x}{2}P_\ell \right)U^\dagger B U\exp\left(-i\frac{x}{2}P_\ell \right)|\psi_0\rangle\large|_{x=0}\\ &=\sum_{\ell=1}^L \tilde\omega_{k}^{(\ell)} \frac{\mathrm{d}}{\mathrm{d}x} C_\ell(x)\large|_{x=0}\end{split}\]

where we skipped the argument \(\boldsymbol{\theta}\) of \(U\) for readability and introduced the modified coefficients \(\tilde\omega_{k}^{(\ell)}=2i\omega_{k}^{(\ell)}\). In the second to last step, we rewrote the commutator of \(U^\dagger BU\) and \(\frac{i}{2}P_\ell\) as the derivative (at zero) of a modified cost function \(C_\ell(x)\) that executes a Pauli rotation about \(-i\frac{x}{2}P_\ell\) before the parametrized time evolution. Here, the variable \(x\) is just a convenient way to write the modified cost function. Note that its derivative with respect to \(x\) can be computed with the standard two-term parameter-shift rule for Pauli rotation gates, i.e.

\[\frac{\mathrm{d}}{\mathrm{d}x} C_\ell(x) {\large|}_{x=0} = \frac{1}{2} \left(C_\ell(\pi/2) - C_\ell(-\pi/2)\right)\]

with \(C_\ell(x) = \langle\psi_0|e^{i\frac{x}{2}P_\ell} U^\dagger B U e^{-i\frac{x}{2}P_\ell} |\psi_0\rangle\).


Considering the derivation above, we notice that the same modified cost function \(C_\ell(x)\) may appear in the derivatives of distinct parameters \(\theta_k\) and \(\theta_m\), because they are shared by two terms in the pulse Hamiltonian. In order to not evaluate the same modified quantum circuit derivatives multiple times, we use an internal cache that avoids repeated creation of the same parameter-shifted circuits. In addition, all modified cost functions \(C_\ell\) that would be multiplied with a vanishing coefficient \(\tilde\omega_{k}^{(\ell)}\) for all \(k\) are skipped altogether. This approach requires a few additional classical coprocessing steps but allows us to save quantum resources in many relevant pulse programs.