Comparing Neural Network Based Decoders for the Surface Code

Savvas Varsamopoulos*, Koen Bertels, Carmen Garcia Almudever

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Matching algorithms can be used for identifying errors in quantum systems, being the most famous the Blossom algorithm. Recent works have shown that small distance quantum error correction codes can be efficiently decoded by employing machine learning techniques based on neural networks (NN). Various NN-based decoders have been proposed to enhance the decoding performance and the decoding time. Their implementation differs in how the decoding is performed, at logical or physical level, as well as in several neural network related parameters. In this work, we implement and compare two NN-based decoders, a low level decoder and a high level decoder, and study how different NN parameters affect their decoding performance and execution time. Crucial parameters such as the size of the training dataset, the structure and the type of the neural network, and the learning rate used during training are discussed. After performing this comparison, we conclude that the high level decoder based on a Recurrent NN shows a better balance between decoding performance and execution time and it is much easier to train. We then test its decoding performance for different code distances, probability datasets and under the depolarizing and circuit error models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8880492
Pages (from-to)300-311
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Computers
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • artificial neural networks
  • decoding
  • Quantum error correction
  • quantum error detection
  • surface code


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