IBM unveils new chip in push to fulfill the promise of quantum computing

IBM unveils new chip in push to fulfill the promise of quantum computing

International Business Machines Corp. announced Wednesday that it has created an even more powerful quantum computing chip, the next step in its years-long effort to build quantum machines capable of delivering business value to businesses.

The 433-qubit Osprey chip, unveiled at IBM‘s

The annual Quantum Summit in New York contains more than three times as many qubits as the 127-qubit Eagle chip it introduced last year.

But IBM aims to steadily build this computing power in the coming years. The company said that it plans to introduce a system of more than 4,000 qubits in 2025, which will be able to solve some problems faster or more accurately than classic computers, as well as provide accurate solutions to problems that the current best computers can only estimate, achieving a well-known milestone. as “quantitative advantage”.

The company will continue to expand from there, and eventually quantum systems will contain millions of qubits, said Dario Gil, IBM’s senior vice president and director of research.

“We’re getting closer and closer,” said Dr. Gill. “That’s another step. There are probably two more steps, but it’s getting close.”

Today’s computers use binary numbers, or bits, which can be either zeros or ones. Quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, which represent and store information in a quantum state that is a complex mix of zero and one. Machines capable of supporting this quantum state have the ability to sort through huge numbers of possibilities in near real time.

Dr. Gill said the kinds of problems quantum computers could one day tackle include mimicking the behavior of natural materials in chemistry, and even breaking the public-key cryptography used to secure the Internet.

On Wednesday, IBM also announced a partnership with Vodafone Group PLC to investigate ways to use classical computing to defend against future threats to quantum-enabled cryptography, and revealed new software to help mitigate errors in quantum systems.

IBM isn’t the only company making big bets here. Microsoft corp.

the alphabet a company

Google and D-Wave Systems Inc. and others as well as a generation of startups to move forward in the region.

As these companies take diverse approaches to building quantum machines, it’s likely that some types of computers will eventually become better suited to solving certain problems than others, according to Heather West, research director and quantum computing research lead at International Data Corp.

D-Wave says it has a machine made up of more than 5,000 qubits, known as a solid quantum computer. Analysts said the serum targets specific problems, usually related to improvement.

IBM is pursuing a quantum computer capable of handling many different tasks, known as a quantum gate computer. Analysts said that increasing the number of qubits in these computers is more difficult than in annealing machines because the qubits work differently in each machine.

In theory, there’s no reason you can’t put 1,000 qubits on a single chip today, Dr. Gill said. The difficulty is that the more qubits you have, the higher the error rate in their results and the less time they can maintain their quantum state for arithmetic operations.

In part, this is because qubits are sensitive and can easily malfunction due to changes in temperature, noise, or frequency. IBM hosts its quantum systems inside refrigerated cylindrical refrigerators, many of which are housed inside the company’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York. Some devices are secured in rooms that require a screen scan to enter. One of them is being kept behind the same kind of glass that protected the Mona Lisa from a climate protest over cake smearing at the Louvre this year.

Jerry Zhao, IBM Fellow and Director of IBM Quantum Infrastructure, Watson Research Center.


Isabelle Bosquet/The Wall Street Journal

In addition, the company announced that it has expanded the customer base that is experimenting with existing quantum computers to more than 210 companies.

Since 2016, IBM has been putting its quantum computers on the cloud to enable companies, universities and individuals to experiment with the technology. She said IBM currently has more than 20 online systems for this. Companies will be able to start using the Osprey chip in the first quarter of next year, said Jerry Zhao, an IBM fellow and director of IBM Quantum Infrastructure.

Boeing a company

It said it uses IBM’s quantum computers through the cloud to experiment with models of chemical reactions related to corrosion on its aircraft.

“It takes time to build an understanding of how this can be useful,” said Marna Kagili, a technical fellow at Boeing.

“We felt it was the right time to start down this path and build our inner strength,” she said, adding, “There is a lot of work to be done.”

Write to Isabelle Bousquette at isabelle.bousquette@wsj.com

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