IBM Builds World’s Most Powerful Quantum Computer Prototype

IBM announced yesterday that their quantum research team has successfully created a 50 qubit processor prototype – which is believed to be the most advanced quantum computer ever. This is quite a giant leap for the company, as their previous computer could only operate 17 quantum bits.

IBM 50Q prototype for 50 qubit quantum processor
IBM Research / Flickr

Quantum computers work differently than normal computers or supercomputers. Regular computers handle two fundamental bits 1 and 0 (on state and off state), whereas quantum computers exploit quantum mechanics that allow it to use both the states at the same time. This is what makes these computers more powerful than even supercomputers. There are certain algorithms and calculations that can only be dealt by quantum processors.

Big companies like Google, Intel, Rigetti are competing with IBM to build a better model. The 50 qubit prototype, however, is first of its kind and gives IBM a huge advantage. “We are really proud of this”, said Dario Gil, Vice President of AI & IBM Q, “it’s a big frickin’ deal”.

This system will not yet be available for clients yet. In their press release, IBM has stated that the 50 qubit processor will be accessible by the public in the next generations of IBM Q systems. But there is a good news for interested people though.

IBM also announced that the company will be releasing 20 qubit processors to the public via the cloud. Clients should expect online access to this system by the end of this year. The coherence time of this processor has been increased twice (than previous IBM Q systems). This processor now tops the industry with a coherence time of average 90 microseconds. In simpler language, it means the computer can hold the quantum state for 90ms.

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Though this is a great achievement in the quantum computing field, one cannot hope personal quantum computers just yet. This is an operational prototype and it requires years of work before it can be brought to the public. According to Professor Andrew Childs, “the qubits might be noisy”. And hence the processor may be erroneous. Also, the coherence time of 90ms is really low in real life.

However, IBM and other companies are trying hard to find ways for building powerful quantum computers. With so much advancement in technology and resources available one can expect that the quantum supremacy is near.

Photo by IBM Research via Flickr licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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