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Mutually Unbiased Bases are Complex Projective

Andreas Klappenecker Martin Rötteler
Department of Computer Science NEC Labs America, Inc.
Texas A&M University 4 Independence Way
College Station, TX, 77843–3112, USA Princeton, NJ 08540 U.S.A.
Email: Email:

Abstract— Mutually unbiased bases (MUBs) are a primitive that we want to determine the density matrix ρ of an ensemble
used in quantum information processing to capture the principle of quantum systems using as few non-degenerate observables
of complementarity. While constructions of maximal sets of d + 1 as possible. We assume that it is possible toPmake a com-
such bases are known for system of prime power dimension d, it is
unknown whether this bound can be achieved for any non-prime plete measurement of each observable O = b∈B xb |bihb |,
power dimension. In this paper we demonstrate that maximal sets meaning that the statistics tr(ρ |bihb |) = hb| ρ |bi is known for
of MUBs come with a rich combinatorial structure by showing each eigenvalue xb in the spectral decomposition. Ivanović
that they actually are the same objects as the complex projective showed in [12] that complete measurements of at least d + 1
2-designs with angle set {0, 1/d}. We also give a new and observables are needed to reconstruct the density matrix. He
simple proof that symmetric informationally complete POVMs
are complex projective 2-designs with angle set {1/(d+1)}. also showed that this lower bound is attained when d + 1 non-
degenerate pairwise complementary observables are used.
I. I NTRODUCTION A simple example is provided by the Pauli spin matrices σx ,
Two quantum mechanical observables are called comple- σy , σz . A complete measurement of these three observables
mentary if and only if precise knowledge of one of them allows to reconstruct a 2 × 2 density matrix, a fact appar-
implies that all possible outcomes are equally probable when ently known to Schwinger [18]. Nowadays, we know how to
measuring the other, see for example [19, p. 561]. The do this state tomography process—at least in principle—in
principle of complementarity was introduced by Bohr [6] in dimensions d = 3, 4, and 5. It is an open problem whether
1928, and it had a profound impact on the further development it is possible to perform this kind of state tomography in
of quantum mechanics. A recent application is the quantum dimension 6, because the construction of a set of 7 mutually
key exchange protocol by Bennett and Brassard [3] that unbiased bases in dimension d = 6 is elusive.
exploits complementarity to secure the key exchange against
We mention a simple mathematical consequence of this
complementarity principle, which motivates some key notion. Definition 1: Two orthonormal bases B and C of Cd are
Suppose that O and O0 are two hermitian d × d matrices called mutually unbiased iff |hb|ci|2 = 1/d holds for all b ∈ B
representing a pair of complementary observables. We assume and c ∈ C.
that the eigenvalues of both matrices are multiplicity free. The goal is to construct d + 1 mutually unbiased bases
It follows that the observables O and O0 respectively have (MUBs) in any dimension d ≥ 2. There are several con-
orthonormal eigenbases B and B 0 with basis vectors uniquely structions known to obtain MUBs. At least for prime power
determined up to a scalar factor. dimension the problem is completely solved. This follows
The complementarity of O and O0 implies that if a quantum from Constructions I-III below. However, in any dimension
system is prepared in an eigenstate b0 of the observable O0 , other than a prime power it is unknown if a maximal set
and O is subsequently measured, then the probability to find of d + 1 MUBs can be found. The best known result is
the system after the measurement in the state b ∈ B is given Construction IV below which only works in dimensions d
by |hb|b0 i|2 = 1/d. Recall that two orthonormal bases B and which are squares and never gives a maximal set of MUBs.
B 0 of Cd are said to be mutually unbiased precisely when Construction I (Wootters and Fields [24]) Let q be an odd
|hb|b0 i|2 = 1/d holds for all b ∈ B and b0 ∈ B 0 . Thus prime power. Define
the eigenbases of non-degenerate complementary observables
are mutually unbiased. Conversely, we can associate to a |va,b i = q −1/2 (ωptr(ax +bx)
)x∈Fq ∈ Cq ,
pair of mutually unbiased bases a pair of non-degenerate
complementary observables. with ωp = exp(2πi/p). Then the standard basis together with
There is a fundamental property of mutually unbiased bases the bases Ba = {|va,b i |b ∈ Fq }, a ∈ Fq , form a set of q + 1
that is invaluable in quantum information processing. Suppose mutually unbiased bases of Cq .
Construction II (Galois Rings [13]) Let GR(4, n) be a finite Then we have that:
Galois ring with Teichmüller set Tn . Define r r
• M (p ) = p + 1 for p prime, r ∈ N,
• M (n) ≤ n + 1 for all n ∈ N,
−n/2 2πi
|va,b i = 2 exp tr(a + 2b)x . • M (mn) ≥ min{M (m), M (n)} for all m, n ∈ N.
4 x∈Tn 2
• M (d ) ≥ N (d), where N (d) is the number of mutually
Then the standard basis together with the bases Ma = orthogonal Latin squares of size d × d.
{|va,b i |b ∈ Tn }, a ∈ Tn , form a set of 2n + 1 mutually An open problem is to show that lim inf n→∞ M (n) = ∞.
unbiased bases of C2 .
Construction III (Bandyopadhyay et al. [1]) Suppose there III. W ELCH ’ S L OWER B OUNDS
exist subsets C1 , . . . , Cm of a unitary error basis B such that Suppose that X is a finite nonempty set of vectors of unit
|Ci | = d, Ci ∩ Cj = {1d } for i 6= j, and the elements of Ci norm in the complex vector space Cd . The vectors in X satisfy
pairwise commute. Let Mi be a matrix which diagonalizes Ci . the inequalities
Then M1 , . . . , Mm are MUBs. 1 X 1
|hx|yi|2k ≥ d+k−1 , (1)
Construction IV (Wocjan and Beth [23]) Suppose there are |X|2
x,y∈X k
w mutually orthogonal Latin squares [4], each of size d × d
over the symbol set S = {1, . . . , d}. Then w + 2 MUBs for all integers k ≥ 0. Welch derived these bounds in [22]
in dimension d2 can be constructed as follows. With each to obtain a lower bound on the maximal cross-correlation of
Latin square L (and additionally the square (1, 2, . . . , n)t ⊗ spreading sequences of synchronous code-division multiple-
(1, . . . , 1)) we can associate vectors of length d over the access systems. Blichfeld [5] and Sidelnikov [20] derived
alphabet {1, . . . , d2 }: for each symbol α ∈ S define a vector similar bounds for real vectors of unit norm.
sL,α ∈ Cd as follows: start with the empty list sL,α = ∅. A set X attaining the Welch bound (1) for k = 1 is
Then traverse the elements of L column-wise starting at the called a WBE-sequence set, a notion popularized by Massey
upper left corner. Whenever α occurs in position (i, j) in L, and Mittelholzer [15] and others. Using equation (1), it is
then append the number i + jd to the list sL,α . The other straightforward to check that the union of d + 1 mutually
ingredient to construct these MUBs is an arbitrary complex unbiased bases of Cd form a WBE-sequence set. These
Hadamard matrix H = (hi,j ) of size d × d. For each Latin extremal sets of mutually unbiased bases are even better, since
square L and each α, ∈ {1, . . . , d} define a normalized they also attain the Welch bound for k = 2. In fact, we
√j P d
vector |vL,α,j i := 1/ d i=1 esL,α [i] hi,j , where ei are the show that a sequence set attains the Welch bounds (1) for all
elementary basis vectors in Cd . Then the bases given by k ≤ t if and only if it is a t-design in the complex projective
BL := {|vL,α,j i : α, j = 1, . . . , d} together with the identity space CP d−1 .
matrix 1d2 form a set of w + 2 MUBs. Let us introduce some notation. Let S d−1 denote the sphere
of unit vectors in the complex vector space Cd . We say that
Example 1: In dimension d = 3 Construction I yields the
two vectors u and v of S d−1 are equivalent, in signs u ≡
v, if and only if u = eiθ v for some θ ∈ R. It is easy to
3−1/2 { (1, 1, 1), (1, ω3 , ω32 ), (1, ω32 , ω3 )}, see that ≡ is an equivalence relation. We denote the quotient
3−1/2 {(1, ω3 , ω3 ), (1, ω32 , 1), (1, 1, ω32 )}, manifold S d−1/ ≡ by CS d−1 . Notice that the manifold CS d−1
is isomorphic to the complex projective space CP d−1 , but we
3−1/2 {(1, ω32 , ω32 ), (1, ω3 , 1), (1, 1, ω3 )}, prefer the former notation because normalizing vectors to unit
which together with the standard basis 13 form a maximal length is common practice in quantum computing.
system of four MUBs in C3 . Lemma 1: Let µ be the unique normalized U (d)-invariant
Example 2: In dimension d = 4 Construction II yields the Haar measure on the complex sphere CS d−1 . For any x ∈
bases (where√we have abbreviated “ + ” for 1 and “ − ” for S d−1 , we have
−1 and i = −1): Z
1 |hx|yi|2k dµ(y) = d+k−1 .
2 {(+, +, +, +), (+, +, −, −), (+, −, −, +), (+, −, +, −)}, CS d−1 k
1 Proof: The unitary group U (d) acts transitively on the
2 {(+, −, −i, −i), (+, −, i, i), (+, +, i, −i), (+, +, −i, i)},
1 manifold CS d−1 . This means that for any y ∈ CS d−1 there
2 {(+, −i, −i, −), (+, −i, i, +), (+, i, i, −), (+, i, −i, +)}, exists a unitary matrix U mapping y to the first basis vector,
2 {(+, −i, −, −i), (+, −i, +, i), (+, i, +, −i), (+, i, −, i)}. U y = e1 . Therefore,
These four bases and the standard basis 14 form an extremal
|hx|yi|2k dµ(x) = |hU x|e1 i|2k dµ(x)
set of five MUBs in C4 . CS d−1 CS d−1

A basic question is how many bases can be achieved in

general dimension. To this end, we define the function M : = |hx|e1 i|2k dµ(x),
CS d−1
N → N as follows:
where the last equality holds because of the U (d)-invariance
M (n) := max{|B| : B is a set of MUBs in Cn } of the measure µ. Using Proposition 1.4.9 from Rudin [17],
we obtain We show next that 2) implies 3). We observe that (2) holds
1 for all k ≤ t, hence summing over x ∈ X yields (3).
|hx|e1 i|2k dµ(x) = |xk1 |2 dµ(x) = d+k−1
CS d−1 CS d−1 d−1
Finally, we show that 3) implies 1). Suppose that equation
(3) holds. For a vector x ∈ Cd , we denote by x⊗k the k-
which proves the claim. k
fold tensor product x⊗k = x ⊗ · · · ⊗ x ∈ Cd . Note that
IV. C OMPLEX P ROJECTIVE t-D ESIGNS hx⊗k |y ⊗k i = hx|yik . Consider the d2k -dimensional vector
We now present some background material on complex 1 X ⊗k
ξ= x ⊗ x⊗k − x⊗k ⊗ x⊗k dµ(x).
projective designs. We will relate those later on to the systems |X| CS d−1
of vectors formed by a maximal set of MUBs.
Let us first introduce some notation. We denote Evaluating the inner product of ξ with itself yields
by Hom(k, `) the subset of the polynomial ring 1 X
C[x1 , . . . , xd , y1 , . . . , yd ] that consists of all polynomials that |hx|yi| − |hx|yi|2k dµ(y)dµ(x), (4)
|X|2 CS d−1
are homogeneous of degree k in the variables x1 , . . . , xd x,y∈X

and homogeneous of degree ` in the variables y1 , . . . , yd . which is equal to hξ|ξi ≥ 0. The inner integral evaluates to
We associate to each polynomial p in Hom(k, `) a function d+k−1 −1

by Lemma 1, and the double integral has the same
p◦ on the sphere S d−1 by defining p◦ (ξ) = p(ξ, ξ) for k
value, because the measure µ is normalized. It follows from
ξ ∈ S d−1 . The function p◦ is called the “restriction” of p
our assumption that the right hand side vanishes. By con-
onto the complex sphere. It follows from the homogeneity
struction of ξ, we can conclude that averaging over X yields
conditions of the polynomial p that p◦ (eiϑ ξ) = eiϑ(k−`) p◦ (ξ)
an exact cubature formula for all monomials in Hom(k, k)◦ ,
holds for all ϑ ∈ R. Therefore, we obtain a well-defined
hence, by linearity, for all polynomials in Hom(k, k)◦ . This
polynomial function on CS d−1 only if k = `. We define
means that X is a t-design.
Hom(k, k)◦ = {p◦ : p ∈ Hom(k, k)}.
Remark 1: Equation (4) provides a short proof of the Welch
Definition 2: A finite nonempty subset X of CS d−1 is a
inequalities (1). The analogue for real spherical t-designs
t-design in CS d−1 iff the cubature formula
Z of the above result is sketched in [7]. A connection to the
1 X 1 existence of certain isometric Banach space embeddings is
f (x) = f (x)dµ(x)
|X| µ(CS d−1 ) CS d−1 given in [14].

holds for all f in Hom(t, t)◦ . V. U NIFORM T IGHT F RAMES

We now show a characterization of t-designs in terms of A finite subset F of nonzero vectors of Cd is called a frame
the inequalities by Welch given in equation (1). if there exist nonzero real constants A and B such that
Theorem 1: Suppose that X is a finite nonempty subset of X
CS d−1 . Then the following statements are equivalent: Akvk2 ≤ |hf |vi|2 ≤ Bkvk2
f ∈F
1) The set X is a t-design in CS d−1 ;
2) for all x ∈ Cd and all k in the range 0 ≤ k ≤ t, we have holds for all v ∈ Cd . The notion of a frame generalizes the
the equality concept of an orthonormal basis. The linear span of the vectors
hx|xik 1 X in F the space Cd , but the vectors in a frame are in general
= |hx|yi|2k ; (2) not linearly independent. A frame is called tight if and only if
y∈X the frame bounds A and B are equal. A tight frame is called
3) the set X satisfies the Welch bounds (1) with equality for isometric (or uniform) if and only if each vector in F has unit
all k in the range 0 ≤ k ≤ t, that is norm.
Theorem 2: Let F be a finite nonempty subset of vectors
1 X 1
|hx|yi|2k = d+k−1 , 0 ≤ k ≤ t. (3) in Cd . The following statements about F are equivalent:
|X| 2
x,y∈X k 1) F is a uniform tight frame;
Proof: We show that 1) implies 2). Fix a vector x ∈ Cd . 2) F is a WBE-sequence set;
Note that p(y) = |hx|yi|2k = hy|xik hx|yik is a polynomial 3) F is a 1-design in CS d−1 .
function in Hom(k, k)◦ . Since X is a t-design, the exact Proof: The frame constants of a uniform tight frame F
cubature formula in Cd are given by A = B = |F |/d, see for example Property
1 X 2k 2.3 in [8]. Therefore, F satisfies equation (2) of Theorem 1
|hx|yi| = |hx|yi|2k dµ(y)
|X| CS d−1 for k = 1. The equivalence of the three statements follow now
from Theorem 1.
holds for all k in the range 0 ≤ k ≤ t. By Lemma 1, the latter Corollary 1: Any 1-design in CP d−1 is obtained by pro-
integral evaluates to d+k−1k , which proves that equation jecting an orthogonal basis from a higher-dimensional space
(2) holds for all k ≤ t. (where all basis vectors have the same norm).
VI. E QUIVALENCE OF MUB S AND 2-D ESIGNS We can now evaluate the intersection polynomials gij (0) using
We need a few more notations before we state our main [11, Theorem 5.3] and obtain that |I(x, y)| = d − 2.
results. If B is a subset of CS d−1 , then the set A = Hence we can conclude that each set Bx forms an ortho-
{|hx|yi|2 : x, y ∈ B, x 6= y} is called the “angle” set of B. normal basis of Cd . The sets Bx partition B. If Bx 6= Bz ,
For an element x in B and an “angle” α ∈ A, we define the then the bases are by construction mutually unbiased.
subdegree dα (x) as dα (x) = |{y ∈ B : |hx|yi|2 = α}|. If the Zauner conjectures that if the dimension d is not a prime
subdegree dα of an α ∈ A is independent of x, then B is called power, then a 2-design with angle set {0, 1/d} cannot have
a regular scheme. Note that the union of mutually orthogonal d(d+1) elements [25]. His conjecture can now be reformulated
bases of Cd is a regular scheme with angle set {0, 1/d}. in terms of mutually unbiased bases, which then states that
N (d) < d + 1 for non-prime power d. If Zauner’s conjecture
Theorem 3: The union X of d + 1 mutually unbiased bases
is true, then this would explain the particular role of the finite
in Cd forms a 2-design in CS d−1 with angle set {0, 1/d} and
field construction by Wootters and Fields [24].
d(d + 1) elements.
Remark 2: Theorem 3 was obtained earlier by Zauner as
Proof: We verify that X attains the Welch bound in part of a more general result on combinatorial quantum designs
equation (1) with equality for 0 ≤ k ≤ 2. The statement then using a different terminology, see [25, Theorem 2.19]. The
follows from Theorem 1. Indeed, this is obvious for k = 0. converse direction, our Theorem 4, appears to be new.
We note that |X| = d(d + 1).
If we evaluate the left hand side of the Welch bound for X, VII. SIC-POVM S AND 2-D ESIGNS
then we obtain Finally, to demonstrate the versatility of Theorem 1 we also
1 d(d+1)
  show that another system of vectors used in quantum informa-
|hx|yi| = 1+(d−1)0+d tion theory corresponds to complex projective 2-designs. So-
d2 (d+1)2 d2 (d+1)2 d
x,y∈X called symmetric informationally complete positive operator-
1 valued measures (SIC-POVMs) are systems of d2 vectors
d in Cd which have constant inner product, i. e., |hv, wi|2 =
−1 1/(d + 1) for all v, w in the set. Like in case of MUBs it
and this coincides with d+1−1
1 = 1/d; so, X is a 1-design.
Similarly, for k = 2, is a challenging task to construct SIC-POVMs—indeed here
  solutions are known only for a finite number of dimensions
1 X
4 d(d+1) 2 1 [9], [16]. In [16] it was shown that SIC-POVMs actually form
|hx|yi| = 1+(d−1)0+d
d2 (d+1)2 d2 (d+1)2 d2 complex projective 2-designs. The following theorem gives a
2 new and simple proof of this result.
= , Theorem 5 (SIC-POVMs are 2-designs [16]): Let X be a
d(d + 1)
−1 SIC-POVM X in dimension d. Then X forms a 2-design in
and this coincides with d+2−12 = 2/(d(d + 1)). CS d−1 with angle set {1/(d + 1)} and d2 elements.
Theorem 4: A 2-design B in complex projective space Proof: Again, we only have to verify that the set X of
CS d−1 with angle set {0, 1/d} and |B| = d(d + 1) elements vectors attains the Welch bound with equality for 0 ≤ k ≤ 2.
is the union of d + 1 mutually unbiased bases. The statement then follows from Theorem 1. Indeed, this is
Proof: A complex projective 2-design with s = obvious for k = 0. We note that here |X| = d2 . Evaluating
|{0, 1/d}| = 2 satisfies 2 ≥ s − 1, hence is a regular scheme the left hand side of the Welch bound for X, then we obtain
[10]. For α = 1/d, any x ∈ B has subdegree dα (x) = d2 by 1 X 1


2 2 4 2
Theorem 2.5 of [10]. It follows that x is orthogonal to d − 1 |hx|yi| = d · 1+(d − d )
d4 d4 d+1
elements. x,y∈X

Let Bx = {x} ∪ {z ∈ B : hx|zi = 0}. We claim that Bx is 1 1

= (1 + (d − 1)) =
an orthonormal basis of Cd . We may assume that the vectors d2 d
in B are normalized to unit norm. Thus, it suffices to show that −1
and this coincides with d+1−1
1 = 1/d; so, X is a 1-design.
Bx = By for each y ∈ Bx . For x = y this is trivial. We know Similarly, for k = 2,
that x and y are contained in both Bx and By . Therefore, it  
suffices to show that the intersection set 1 X 4 1 2 4 2 1
|hx|yi| = 4 d · 1 + (d − d )
d4 d (d + 1)2
I(x, y) = {z ∈ B : hx|zi = 0, hy|zi = 0} = Bx ∩ By − {x, y}  
1 d−1 2
contains d − 2 elements. = 2
1+ =
d d+1 d(d + 1)
The number of elements in I(x, y) does not depend on
d+2−1 −1

x, y for a t-design with t ≥ 2s − 2, see [11]. Specializing and this coincides with 2 = 2/(d(d + 1)).
Theorem 5.2 in [11] to the case at hand shows that Remark 3: Zauner pointed out to us that the previous the-
X orem can also be obtained in the language of combinatorial
|I(x, y)| = d2 0 0
d(d + 1)gij (0) − 0i − 0j . quantum designs by combining Theorems 2.29 and 2.30 in his

σ1−i σ1−j
i,j=0 dissertation [25].
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