May 14, 2021

Using PennyLane and Strawberry Fields to run programs on Xanadu hardware

Jack Ceroni (Xanadu Resident)

One of the advantages of PennyLane is that it can be run on many different simulators and real quantum devices from a variety of external providers through our Plugins, as well as Xanadu’s own devices! In this how-to, we will show you how to create a simple program in PennyLane (using the PennyLane-SF plugin), and execute it on Xanadu’s hardware!


First things first: in order to query the Xanadu hardware locally, you must have an API key. You can generate one of these keys by creating an account on Xanadu Cloud. Alternatively, you can try running this demo directly on the Xanadu Cloud interface without needing an API! But, for this tutorial, we will outline everything you need to do to run your code locally (not running things directly on Xanadu Cloud).

After you get your API key, make sure to save it somewhere safe! Next, you need to register your API with the Xanadu Cloud Client. Make sure to install it!

pip install xanadu-cloud-client

More detailed instructions for registering your API key with Xanadu Cloud Client can be found here. But, essentially, include the following block of code and you should be good to go. Make sure you install Xanadu Cloud Client first!

import xcc
xcc.Settings(REFRESH_TOKEN="Xanadu Cloud API key goes here").save()

A successful answer to a ping indicates that everything is working properly!

>>> import xcc.commands
>>> xcc.commands.ping()
Successfully connected to the Xanadu Cloud.

We begin by importing the necessary libraries for our program. Then, we are able to specify a device on which we can run our quantum program.

import strawberryfields as sf
import pennylane as qml

Simulating Circuits on Xanadu’s Cloud Simulator

Xanadu Cloud doesn’t only give access to real quantum devices; it also consists of high-performance classical simulators (which we refer to as “simulons”). As a warm-up, let’s use a simulator!

We will be using the simulon_gaussian device, which is a simulator that runs on the gaussian Strawberry Fields backend. We first define our device instance, using our access token:

dev = qml.device(
    'strawberryfields.remote', backend="simulon_gaussian", sf_token="MY_TOKEN", wires=3

Since the simulon_gaussian device runs on the gaussian backend, it follows that any circuit we run on this simulator must consist entirely of Gaussian operations. Recall that any unitary operation can be written in the form:

$$ U = \exp (-i t H). $$

Gaussian unitaries are those such that $H$ is at most quadratic in the operators $\hat{x}$ and $\hat{p}$ (for more information on the theory, see this page). Common examples of photonic Gaussian operations are displacements, quadratic phase gates, and beamsplitters, which are precisely the operations we use in our circuit:

def circuit(theta, phi):
    qml.Displacement(1, 0, wires=0)
    qml.Displacement(1, 0, wires=1)
    qml.QuadraticPhase(1, wires=2)
    qml.Beamsplitter(theta, phi, wires=[0, 1])
    qml.Beamsplitter(theta, phi, wires=[1, 2])
    return qml.expval(qml.X(wires=0))

Notice that the circuit ends with a measurement of the expectation value of the position quadrature observable. These kinds of measurements are supported on the Gaussian simulator! Finally, we execute the circuit on the device:

>>> circuit(0.5, 0.5)

That was simple enough! As you probably noticed, simulating a circuit in the Cloud is very similar to how we would go about simulating a quantum program locally 💻.

Executing a Program on a Xanadu X8 Device

Now that we have simulated a circuit using the Xanadu Cloud, we are ready to perform a real quantum experiment ‍🔬. We will use one of Xanadu’s X8 devices to execute a simple quantum circuit, taking 10 samples from the device. The X8 devices perform a process known as Gaussian boson sampling (GBS), which involves executing a very specific set of Gaussian operations on a series of photonic modes, and sampling from the resulting probability distribution by taking measurements in the Fock basis.

As we did with the simulator, we first must specify our device instance, noting that our backend is one of the X8 devices, and that we require 10 circuit executions. In addition, we must give our personal access token:

dev = qml.device('strawberryfields.remote', backend="X8", shots=10, sf_token="MY_TOKEN")

It is important to remember that the X8 devices have the following fixed circuit structure:


As is indicated above, only certain types of operations can be implemented on the X8 device, in a certain order. More specifically:

  • The X8 chip begins with a series of squeezers and beamsplitters, which can create two-mode squeezed states. The only allowed squeezer parameters are $r = 1.0$ and $r = 0.0$.
  • Next, each collection of 4 modes can be acted upon by an arbitrary $SU(4)$ unitary operation, which is implemented using interferometers.
  • Finally, the modes are measured using photon-number-resolving (PNR) detectors, which count the number of detected photons after an execution of the device.

It is crucial that we only attempt to execute a QNode that contains operations supported by the X8 device.

We therefore define a simple circuit which first performs two-mode squeezing between two pairs of modes (0 and 4, and 1 and 5), with $r = 1.0$ for each squeezer. Next, we add two beamsplitters with parameters $\theta$ and $\phi$, which are in fact $SU(4)$ transformations. Finally, we measure the expectation value of a tensor product of number operators, $\langle \hat{n}_0 \otimes \hat{n}_5 \rangle$, which can be calculated using PNR detectors:

def circuit(theta, phi):
    qml.TwoModeSqueezing(1.0, 0.0, wires=[0, 4])
    qml.TwoModeSqueezing(1.0, 0.0, wires=[1, 5])
    qml.Beamsplitter(theta, phi, wires=[0, 1])
    qml.Beamsplitter(theta, phi, wires=[4, 5])
    return qml.expval(qml.TensorN(wires=[0, 5]))

We can then run the circuit for the pair of beamsplitter parameters $\theta = 0.5$ and $\phi = 0.5$:

>>> circuit(0.5, 0.5)

Success 🎉! We have just executed a quantum program on Xanadu’s X8 device! For more information on running GBS-based algorithms on Xanadu’s hardware, check out this tutorial over on the Strawberry Fields website.

About the author

Jack Ceroni

Jack Ceroni

Jack is currently a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, pursuing a degree in pure mathematics. Broadly, his interests are related to simulating quantum systems with quantum computers, mathematical abstraction, and philosophy.