IBM Unveils New Push Chip to Realize the Promise of Quantum Computing

IBM Unveils New Push Chip to Realize the Promise of Quantum Computing

International Business Machines Corp. announced Wednesday that it has created a more powerful quantum computer chip, the next step in its years-long effort to build quantum machines capable of delivering commercial value to companies.

The 433-qubit Osprey chip, unveiled at IBMit is

Annual Quantum Summit in New York, has more than three times as many qubits as the 127-qubit Eagle chip it introduced last year.

But IBM aims to gradually develop this computing power in the coming years. The company said it plans to introduce a system with more than 4,000 qubits in 2025, which would be able to solve certain problems faster or more accurately than conventional computers, as well as provide exact solutions to problems. that today’s best computers can only estimate, achieve a milestone known as “quantum advantage.”

Dario Gil, senior vice president of IBM and director of IBM Research, said the company would continue to scale from there and eventually quantum systems would contain millions of qubits.

“We’re getting closer and closer,” Dr. Gil said. “It’s another step. It might be a few more steps, but it’s getting closer.

Computers today use binary digits, or bits, which can be zeros or ones. Quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, which represent and store information in a quantum state which is a complex mixture of zero and one. Machines capable of supporting this quantum state have the potential to sort through a large number of possibilities in near real time.

The kinds of problems quantum computers could one day solve include simulating the behavior of natural materials in chemistry, and even breaking public-key cryptography used to secure the internet, Dr Gil said.

On Wednesday, IBM also announced a partnership with Vodafone Group PLC to explore ways to use classical computing to defend against future quantum threats to encryption, and unveiled new software to help mitigate errors in quantum systems. .

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

Alphabet Inc.

Google, D-Wave Systems Inc. and others, and a generation of startups are all pushing ahead in the field.

As these companies take varied approaches to building quantum machines, it’s possible that some types of computers will end up being better suited than others for solving certain problems, according to Heather West, research manager and head of research in quantum computing at International Data Corp.

D-Wave claims to have a machine with over 5,000 qubits, known as an annealing quantum computer. An anneal targets specific problems, usually related to optimization, analysts said.

IBM is pursuing a quantum computer that can handle many different tasks, known as a quantum gate computer. Increasing the number of qubits in these computers is more difficult than in annealers because qubits work differently in each machine, the analysts said.

Theoretically, there’s no reason you can’t put 1,000 qubits on a single chip today, Dr Gil said. The difficulty is that the more qubits you have, the higher the error rate of their results and the less able they are to maintain their quantum state to perform calculations.

This is partly because qubits are delicate and easily disturbed by changes in temperature, noise, or frequency. IBM houses its quantum systems in cylindrical cryogenic refrigerators, several of which are in the company’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY. Some machines are kept in rooms that require a retinal scan to enter. One is kept behind the same type of glass that protected the Mona Lisa from a climate manifestation at the Louvre this year.

Jerry Chow, IBM Fellow and Director of Infrastructure for IBM Quantum, at Watson Research Center.


Isabelle Bousquette/The Wall Street Journal

The company also announced that it had expanded the base of customers experimenting with its existing quantum computers to more than 210 companies.

Since 2016, IBM has been putting its quantum computers on the cloud to allow companies, universities and individuals to experiment with the technology. IBM currently has more than 20 systems online for this purpose, he said. Jerry Chow, IBM Fellow and Director of Infrastructure for IBM Quantum, said companies could start using the Osprey chip in the first quarter of next year.

Boeing Co.

said he was using IBM’s quantum computers via the cloud to experiment with modeling corrosion-related chemical reactions on his planes.

“It takes time to understand how useful this can be,” said Marna Kagele, technical research fellow at Boeing.

“We felt it was the right time to go down this road and build our internal capacity,” she said, adding, “There’s a lot of work to do.”

Write to Isabelle Bousquette at

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