Intrinsic sign problem in fermionic and bosonic chiral topological matter

Omri Golan*, Adam Smith, Zohar Ringel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The infamous sign problem leads to an exponential complexity in Monte Carlo simulations of generic many-body quantum systems. Nevertheless, many phases of matter are known to admit a sign-problem-free representative, allowing efficient simulations on classical computers. Motivated by long-standing open problems in many-body physics, as well as fundamental questions in quantum complexity, the possibility of intrinsic sign problems, where a phase of matter admits no sign-problem-free representative, was recently raised but remains largely unexplored. Here we establish the existence of an intrinsic sign problem in a broad class of gapped, chiral, topological phases of matter. Within this class, we exclude the possibility of stoquastic Hamiltonians for bosons (or "qudits") and of sign-problem-free determinantal Monte Carlo algorithms for fermions. The intrinsically sign-problematic class of phases we identify is defined in terms of topological invariants with clear observable signatures: the chiral central charge and the topological spins of anyons. We obtain analogous results for phases that are spontaneously chiral, and present evidence for an extension of our results that applies to both chiral and nonchiral topological matter.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number043032
JournalPhysical Review Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 6 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

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© 2020 authors. Published by the American Physical Society.


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