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By my calculations, it looks like the SWAP gate is a Clifford Gate. See the following table:enter image description here

I follow the same method as in this paper for showing a gate is a Clifford Gate. I got the above table by performing calculations in Qiskit. How would I express the SWAP gate in terms of the generators of the Clifford group? The generators are the $H$ gate, the $S$ gate and the $CNOT$ gate.

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It's well known that you can make a swap out of three CNOTs.

enter image description here

For reference, Stim's gate documentation includes H+S+CX decompositions of a lot of Clifford gates including the swap:

Stabilizer Generators:

X_ -> +_X
Z_ -> +_Z
_X -> +X_
_Z -> +Z_

Unitary Matrix:

[+1  ,     ,     ,     ]
[    ,     , +1  ,     ]
[    , +1  ,     ,     ]
[    ,     ,     , +1  ]

Decomposition (into H, S, CX, M, R):

# The following circuit is equivalent (up to global phase) to `SWAP 0 1`
CNOT 0 1
CNOT 1 0
CNOT 0 1
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  • $\begingroup$ thank you for the answer :) I saw before the the $C_{2}NOT_{1}$ and $C_{1}NOT_{2}$ gates can be used to make a $SWAP$ gate. My question then is: how is the $C_{2}NOT_{1}$ generated using the generators of the Clifford group? $\endgroup$ Nov 11 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ $C_2NOT_1=(H\otimes H)\circ C_1NOT_2\circ(H\otimes H)$ $\endgroup$ Nov 11 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ @QuantumGuy123 That gate is considered to be in the gate set. But if you really want to go out of your way you can just surround a CNOT with Hs instead of switching the target and control roles. $\endgroup$ Nov 11 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ hey @CraigGidney, do you (or perhaps someone you know) know the answer to my other question on Cliffords?: quantumcomputing.stackexchange.com/questions/21993/… $\endgroup$ Nov 19 at 22:14
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Yes, SWAP is a Clifford gate.


Your proof is correct. By definition, an $n$-qubit gate $U$ is Clifford if $UPU^\dagger\in G_n$ for all $P\in G_n$ where $G_n$ is the $n$-qubit Pauli group. However, it is easy to see that we only need to check that $UQU^\dagger\in G_n$ for $Q$ that are generators of $G_n$. Moreover, $G_n$ is generated by $\{i, Z_k, X_k\,|\,k=1,\dots,n\}$ where $X_k$ denotes the tensor product of Pauli $X$ on the $k$th qubit and identity applied to all other qubits and similarly for $Z_k$. Since $UiU^\dagger=iI\in G_n$ for all $U$, we only have to check that $UX_kU^\dagger\in G_n$ and $UZ_kU^\dagger\in G_n$ for $k=1,\dots,n$. This is exactly what the table in the question accomplishes.


It is easy to check that

$$ \text{SWAP} = C_1NOT_2 \circ C_2NOT_1 \circ C_1NOT_2\tag1 $$

where $C_iNOT_j$ denotes the CNOT gate with qubit $i$ as control and $j$ as the target, e.g. by applying both sides of $(1)$ to the computational basis states.

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