Methods of optimal control are applied to a model system of interacting two-level particles (e.g., spin-half atomic nuclei or electrons or two-level atoms) to produce high-fidelity quantum gates while simultaneously negating the detrimental effect of decoherence. One set of particles functions as the quantum information processor, whose evolution is controlled by a time-dependent external field. The other particles are not directly controlled and serve as an effective environment, coupling to which is the source of decoherence. The control objective is to generate target one- and two-qubit unitary gates in the presence of strong environmentally-induced decoherence and under physically motivated restrictions on the control field. The quantum-gate fidelity, expressed in terms of a novel state-independent distance measure, is maximized with respect to the control field using combined genetic and gradient algorithms. The resulting high-fidelity gates demonstrate the feasibility of precisely guiding the quantum evolution via optimal control, even when the system complexity is exacerbated by environmental coupling. It is found that the gate duration has an important effect on the control mechanism and resulting fidelity. An analysis of the sensitivity of the gate performance to random variations in the system parameters reveals a significant degree of robustness attained by the optimal control solutions.

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