Estimation of Hamiltonian parameters from thermal states


We upper- and lower-bound the optimal precision with which one can estimate an unknown Hamiltonian parameter via measurements of Gibbs thermal states with a known temperature. The bounds depend on the uncertainty in the Hamiltonian term that contains the parameter and on the term’s degree of noncommutativity with the full Hamiltonian: higher uncertainty and commuting operators lead to better precision. We apply the bounds to show that there exist entangled thermal states such that the parameter can be estimated with an error that decreases faster than $1/\sqrt{n}$, beating the standard quantum limit. This result governs Hamiltonians where an unknown scalar parameter (e.g. a component of a magnetic field) is coupled locally and identically to $n$ qubit sensors. In the high-temperature regime, our bounds allow for pinpointing the optimal estimation error, up to a constant prefactor. Our bounds generalize to joint estimations of multiple parameters. In this setting, we recover the high-temperature sample scaling derived previously via techniques based on quantum state discrimination and coding theory. In an application, we show that noncommuting conserved quantities hinder the estimation of chemical potentials.