The complexity of the local Hamiltonian problem

Julia Kempe, Alexei Kitaev, Oded Regev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The k-LOCAL HAMILTONIAN problem is a natural complete problem for the complexity class QMA, the quantum analog of NP. It is similar in spirit to MAX-k-SAT, which is NP-complete for k ≥ 2. It was known that the problem is QMA-complete for any k ≥ 3. On the other hand 1-LOCAL HAMILTONIAN is in P, and hence not believed to be QMA-complete. The complexity of the 2-LOCAL HAMILTONIAN problem has long been outstanding. Here we settle the question and show that it is QMA-complete. We provide two independent proofs; our first proof uses a powerful technique for analyzing the sum of two Hamiltonians; this technique is based on perturbation theory and we believe that it might prove useful elsewhere. The second proof uses elementary linear algebra only. Using our techniques we also show that adiabatic computation with two-local interactions on qubits is equivalent to standard quantum computation.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • General Computer Science


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