IBM builds new quantum computing processor

IBM has announced it has built and tested its most powerful universal quantum computing processors to date. Two new experimental processors have been announced, one at 16 qubits and another featuring 17 qubits. IBM has stated that these new quantum processors leverage ‘significant materials, device, and architecture improvements to make it the most powerful quantum processor created to date by IBM.’

‘The significant engineering improvements announced today will allow IBM to scale future processors to include 50 or more qubits, and demonstrate computational capabilities beyond today’s classical computing systems,’ said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research and Hybrid Cloud. ‘These powerful upgrades to our quantum systems, delivered via the IBM Cloud, allow us to imagine new applications and new frontiers for discovery that are virtually unattainable using classical computers alone.’

The new systems will allow users more freedom for complex experimentation than the 5 qubit processor that was previously available. The processors will be available for use by developers, researchers, and programmers to explore quantum computing using a real quantum processor at no cost via the IBM Cloud. The second is a new prototype of a commercial processor, which will be the core for the first IBM Q early-access commercial systems.

Launched in March 2017, IBM Q is an industry-first initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems for business and science applications. IBM Q systems and services will be delivered via the IBM Cloud platform. IBM first opened public access to its quantum processors one year ago, to serve as an enablement tool for scientific research, a resource for university classrooms, and a catalyst of enthusiasm for the field. To date, users have run more than 300,000 quantum experiments on the IBM Cloud.

The inherent computational power of a quantum processor to solve practical problems depends on far more than simply the number of qubits. Due to the fragile nature of quantum information, increasing the computational power requires advances in the quality of the qubits, how the qubits talk to each other and minimising the quantum errors that can occur.;

IBM has adopted a new metric to characterise the computational power of quantum systems: Quantum Volume. Quantum Volume accounts for the number and quality of qubits, circuit connectivity, and error rates of operations.

IBM’s prototype commercial processor offers a significant improvement in the Quantum Volume. Over the next few years, IBM plans to continue to push the technology aggressively and aims to significantly increase the Quantum Volume of future systems by improving all aspects of the processors, including incorporating 50 or more qubits. Experts can learn more here as part of a paper published by IBM.

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