IBM develops prototype 50 qubit processor

10 November, 2017, 23:07 | Author: Oscar Goodwin
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The 20 qubit processor has an average coherence time of 90 microseconds. This complex interconnect fabric permits maximum flexibility for IBM Q systems. He says that IBM wants to push a new metric for quantum computing capability measurement. In just a six-month period, for example, IBM was able to extend the coherence times (the amount of time available to perform quantum computations) for the 20 qubit processor to be twice that of the 5 and 16 qubit systems.

"We are really proud of this; it's a big frickin' deal", IBM's director for AI and quantum computing Dario Gil, who made Friday's announcement, told the MIT Technology Review.

Much of the quantum computing hype of the last few years has centered on D-Wave, which has installed a number of functional systems and is hard at work making quantum programming more practical. Now, we can scale IBM processors up to 50 qubits. "These latest advances show that we are quickly making quantum systems and tools available that could offer an advantage for tackling problems outside the realm of classical machines". Only a year and a half ago, IBM was working with 5-qubit computers.

The IBM Q experience has allowed over 60,000 users to perform more than 1.7 million quantum experiments, which have been used in 35 research publications. These properties would theoretically give a quantum computer vastly more power than a conventional machine. IBM Q, which was announced in March, is a followup to that effort. "In prior years, the course was interesting theoretically, but felt like it described some far off future", said Andrew Houck, professor of electrical engineering, Princeton University. Instead of being built on machines interpreting zeroes and ones in on/off states, quantum computers can live in multiple states. "Now, our enrollments are skyrocketing, drawing excitement from top students from a very wide range of disciplines".

IBM, Google, Intel, and a San Francisco startup called Rigetti are all now racing to build useful quantum systems.

IBM has also announced updates to their QISKit Quantum Experience so everyone else can try running quantum algorithms of their own. "Simulators don't now capture the nuances of the actual quantum hardware platforms, and nothing is more convincing for a proof-of-concept than results obtained from an actual quantum processor". Similar tutorials are also provided that detail implementation of optimization problems such as MaxCut and Traveling Salesman on IBM's quantum hardware. This is made possible by the quantum effects known as entanglement and superposition.

IBM sees applications for quantum computing in areas like medicine, drug discovery and materials science as this technology advances and becomes better understood. It basically means that you only have a brief window of time before the qubits revert to a classical computing state of zeroes and ones.

Volkswagen Group chief information officer Martin Hofmann said: "Quantum computing technology opens up new dimensions and represents the fast-track for future-oriented topics". Founding members include Samsung, JSR, Honda, Hitachi Metals, Canon, and Nagase.

The two companies will explore the use of quantum computers with an aim of building specialist knowledge and to carry out practically oriented research.

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