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TorchMPS: Matrix Product States in Pytorch

TorchMPS is a framework for working with matrix product state (also known as MPS or tensor train) models within Pytorch. Our MPS models are written as Pytorch Modules, and can simply be viewed as differentiable black boxes that are interchangeable with standard neural network layers. However, the rich structure of MPS's allows for more interesting behavior, such as:

  • A novel adaptive training algorithm (inspired by Stoudenmire and Schwab 2016), which dynamically varies the MPS hyperparameters (MPS bond dimensions) during the course of training.
  • Mechanisms for controlling MPS geometry, such as custom "routing" of the MPS through different regions of the input data, or periodic boundary conditions that give the MPS a circular topology.
  • Choice of tensor contraction strategies, which represent flexible tradeoffs between computational cost and parallelizability of the computation graph.

What our MPS Models Do

The function computed by our MPS Module comes from embedding input data in a high-dimensional feature space before contracting it with an MPS in the same space, as described in Novikov, Trofimov, and Oseledets 2016 and Stoudenmire and Schwab 2016. For scalar outputs, this contraction step is formally identical to linear regression, but the (exponentially) large feature space and MPS-parameterized weight vector makes the overall function significantly more expressive. In general, the output is associated with a single site of the MPS, whose placement within the network is a hyperparameter that varies the inductive bias towards different regions of the input data.

How to Use TorchMPS

As our models are built on Pytorch, users will need to have this installed in a directory contained in the environment variable PYTHONPATH. Torchvision is also used in our example script, but not anywhere else.

After cloning the repo, running gives a simple example of how our MPS can be used to classify MNIST digits. In general, MPS models can be invoked by simply importing the class MPS from, and then creating a new MPS instance. For example, an MPS which classifies 32x32 images into one of 10 categories can be defined and used as follows:

from import MPS

my_mps = MPS(input_dim=32**2, output_dim=10, bond_dim=16)

# Now get a batch of (flattened) images to classify...

batch_scores = my_mps(batch_images)

That's it! After creation, my_mps acts as a stateful function whose internal parameters can be trained exactly as any other Pytorch Module (e.g. nn.Linear, nn.Conv1d, nn.Sequential, etc).

The possible arguments for defining an MPS are:

  • input_dim: The dimension of the input we feed to our MPS
  • output_dim: The dimension of the output we get from each input
  • bond_dim: The internal bond dimension, a hyperparameter that sets the expressivity of our MPS. When in adaptive training mode, bond_dim instead sets the maximum possible bond dimension, with the initial bond dimension equal to output_dim
  • feature_dim: The dimension of the local feature spaces we embed each datum in (default = 2)
  • adaptive_mode: Whether our MPS is trained with its bond dimensions chosen adaptively or are fixed at creation (default = False (fixed bonds))
  • periodic_bc: Whether our MPS has periodic boundary conditions (making it a tensor ring) or open boundary conditions (default = False (open boundaries))
  • parallel_eval: For open boundary conditions, whether contraction of tensors is performed serially or in parallel (default = False (serial))
  • label_site: The location in the MPS chain where our output lives after contracting all other sites with inputs (default = input_dim // 2)
  • path: A list specifying the path our MPS takes through the input data. For example, path = [0, 1, ..., input_dim-1] gives the standard in-order traversal (used if path = None), while path = [0, 2, ..., input_dim-1] defines an MPS which only acts on even-valued sites within our input (default = None)
  • cutoff: The singular value cutoff which controls adaptation of bond dimensions (default = 1e-9)
  • merge_threshold: The number of inputs before our MPS dynamically shifts its merge state, which updates half the bond dimensions at a time (default = 2000, only used in adaptive mode)
  • init_std: The size of the random terms used during initialization (default = 1e-9)

To define a custom feature map for embedding input data, first define a function feature_map which acts on a single scalar input and outputs a Pytorch vector of size feature_dim. After initializing an MPS my_mps, simply call my_mps.register_feature_map(feature_map), and the user-specified feature_map will be applied to all input data given to my_mps. If feature_map is also a Pytorch Module, then any parameters associated with the map will be included in my_mps.parameters(). This streamlines the use of trainable feature maps within an MPS model.

Adaptive Training using Distributed DMRG

When an MPS is initialized with adaptive_mode set to True, training proceeds by alternating between different "offsets" of the MPS cores. Each offset combines adjacent pairs of cores into effective merged cores, so that half of the bonds in the MPS are contracted over. This contraction provides a low rank decomposition of the initial merged core, but as training progresses the rank across this bond will typically increase.

After a certain number of inputs are fed to the MPS (equal to merge_threshold), each merged core is split in two via a singular value decomposition (SVD) across the contracted bond index. A truncation is then applied which removes all singular values less than cutoff, yielding a collection of split cores with half of the bonds having reduced bond dimension. These cores are then merged along a different offset and the process repeated, so that all of the bond dimensions are eventually optimized.

Throughout this process, real-time lists of all the truncated bond dimensions and singular value spectra are accessible as the attributes my_mps.bond_list and my_mps.sv_list.

This adaptive training mode was directly inspired by the ML DMRG training procedure in Stoudenmire and Schwab 2016, which uses a similar division of training into merging and splitting steps, but with a different overall control flow.

Similar Software

There are plenty of excellent software packages for manipulating matrix product states/tensor trains, some notable ones including the following:

  • TensorNetwork (Python, TensorFlow): Powerful library for defining and manipulating general tensor network models, which is described in Roberts et al. 2019.
  • T3F (Python, TensorFlow): Useful for general tensor train applications, T3F includes lots of support for working with tensor train factorizations of matrices (as used in Novikov et al. 2015), and supports Riemannian optimization techniques for improved training.
  • tntorch (Python, Pytorch): Implements many different tensor factorizations, including CP, Tucker, and tensor train.
  • TNML (C++, ITensor): Implements the DMRG-style training described in Stoudenmire and Schwab 2016, which had a major influence on our adaptive training algorithm.

A defining quality of our library is the emphasis on using matrix product states as functional modules which can be easily interchanged with existing neural network components, while still allowing for interesting MPS-specific features.

Citing TorchMPS

If you found TorchMPS useful for your work, you can cite it by adding the following entry to your BibTeX bibliography (.bib) file:

  author = {Miller, Jacob},
  title = {TorchMPS},
  year = {2019},
  publisher = {GitHub},
  journal = {GitHub repository},
  howpublished = {\url{}},


PyTorch toolbox for matrix product state models







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