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Empirical performance bounds for quantum approximate optimization

by Phillip C Lotshaw, Travis S Humble, Rebekah Herrman, Jim Ostrowski, George Siopsis
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Quantum Information Processing
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The quantum approximate optimization algorithm (QAOA) has been put forth as a method for near-term quantum computers to solve optimization problems. However, assessments of QAOA performance have mostly focused on small structured problem instances while performance on more general instances is less clear. Here, we numerically simulate QAOA pure state dynamics for every instance of MaxCut on non-isomorphic unweighted graphs with nine or fewer vertices with depth parameters p≤3. We find the approximation ratios and optimized circuit parameters concentrate across graphs of a given size and empirically show increases in concentration as graph size increases. The parameter concentration leads to two median-angle heuristics that overcome difficulties in QAOA parameter optimization and obtain mean approximation ratios within 3% and 0.2% of the optimal. We also analyze the probability to measure an optimal solution and find increasing variations between graphs as depth increases, in stark contrast to the approximation ratios which concentrate as depth increases. The resulting benchmark data set gives empirical bounds for on-going experimental realizations and lays groundwork for theoretical extensions to greater problem sizes and depths where QAOA may prove important for practically relevant problems.