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IBM Says Practical Quantum Computers are Close

By - Source: IBM | B 41 comments

IBM researchers claim they are now close to have access to basic technologies that would allow them to build a "minimum" quantum computer.

According to the company, scientists have found ways to retain the integrity of quantum bits (qubits) and reduce computation errors as a result. The solution appear to be superconducting qubits that are constructed via traditional silicon fabrication techniques and hold the potential to scale up to potentially thousands or millions of qubits one day.

"The quantum computing work we are doing shows it is no longer just a brute force physics experiment. It's time to start creating systems based on this science that will take computing to a new frontier," said IBM scientist Matthias Steffen, who manages the IBM Research team that works on quantum computing systems. The vision of quantum computing is to enable computers to do "millions of computations at once" with a single qubit. According to IBM, a 250-qubit system "contains more bits of information than there are atoms in the universe." In contrast to a traditional bit, which can either have the value "0" or "1", a qubit can have "0", "1" and both values at the same time.

While there is a clear vision to build a quantum computer, scientists are dealing with a number of substantial roadblocks to realize such a device. One key problem remain interference factors that influence the controllability and reliability of qubits, such as temperature, electromagnetism and material defects. IBM said that the transition to a “three dimensional” superconducting qubit (3D qubit) allowed them to extend the time a qubit retains its state to 100 microseconds, which is a 2 to 4x improvement over previous results. It is not eternity, but IBM says the value " reaches just past the minimum threshold to enable effective error correction schemes and suggests that scientists can begin to focus on broader engineering aspects for scalability." The company has built a 3D qubit device with a 1mm qubit as part of a Sapphire chip to demonstrate its research progress.

IBM said that it believes that, in the future, a "classical" computer system will integrate quantum computing hardware to form a functional quantum computing system. The next challenges to achieve this goal will be necessary advances in communications and packaging technology.

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  • 25 Hide
    lashabane , June 3, 2012 7:34 PM
    I get so excited when I see this stuff but then quickly realize that most software we have today is barely capable of utilizing more than two cores.
  • 22 Hide
    beayn , June 3, 2012 7:39 PM
    I will pre-order my 250-qubit hard drive now please.
  • 22 Hide
    jprahman , June 3, 2012 8:36 PM
    Quote:
    I get so excited when I see this stuff but then quickly realize that most software we have today is barely capable of utilizing more than two cores.

    Quantum computing is not about running CS5 faster, it is about a completely new paradigm of how computation is performed at the lowest levels. Because qubits can be in multiple states at the same time, when you perform operations on qubits you actually perform the operation on each state the qubit simultaneously occupies. In this way you are able to perform vast numbers of operations with very few qubits, but only in a probabilistic sense because of the nature of quantum mechanics. i.e. you are given a probability as a result, rather than exact numbers. With quantum computing you can solve optimization problems that couldn't even be attempted before. Ultimately quantum computing is not for the average consumer to use, but rather a tool to allow researchers and industry to perform computations that were previously impossible.
Other Comments
  • 16 Hide
    drwho1 , June 3, 2012 7:34 PM
    Quantum Leap
  • 25 Hide
    lashabane , June 3, 2012 7:34 PM
    I get so excited when I see this stuff but then quickly realize that most software we have today is barely capable of utilizing more than two cores.
  • 4 Hide
    amuffin , June 3, 2012 7:38 PM
    But can we multiply over 15? That is in atoms of course! :) 
  • 22 Hide
    beayn , June 3, 2012 7:39 PM
    I will pre-order my 250-qubit hard drive now please.
  • 11 Hide
    shloader , June 3, 2012 7:54 PM
    "a "classical" computer system will integrate quantum computing hardware"

    Assuming they're suggesting that Quantum processors will first exist in the system as a co-processor of sorts. Then they'll somehow include them on the same die with the rest of the main CPU. At that point it'll completely negate any need of a GPU at all. It won't be a question of 'can it play Crysis'. It'll be 'how many screens can it push running Crysis IX @ 4320p'.
  • 19 Hide
    capt_taco , June 3, 2012 8:20 PM
    I'm totally psyched about quantum processors, then I can have a CPU that exists and doesn't exist at the same time.

    holy crap, I better patent that shit so I can sue everyone in a few years.
  • 18 Hide
    thivaldi1234 , June 3, 2012 8:32 PM
    Did they mention that you'd probably have to have your processor below 30mK for it to work well? This is still a very practical temperature ranger for research labs and other potential operators with the money to run a dilution fridge, but not for the avg Joe.
  • 22 Hide
    jprahman , June 3, 2012 8:36 PM
    Quote:
    I get so excited when I see this stuff but then quickly realize that most software we have today is barely capable of utilizing more than two cores.

    Quantum computing is not about running CS5 faster, it is about a completely new paradigm of how computation is performed at the lowest levels. Because qubits can be in multiple states at the same time, when you perform operations on qubits you actually perform the operation on each state the qubit simultaneously occupies. In this way you are able to perform vast numbers of operations with very few qubits, but only in a probabilistic sense because of the nature of quantum mechanics. i.e. you are given a probability as a result, rather than exact numbers. With quantum computing you can solve optimization problems that couldn't even be attempted before. Ultimately quantum computing is not for the average consumer to use, but rather a tool to allow researchers and industry to perform computations that were previously impossible.
  • 9 Hide
    stevo777 , June 3, 2012 8:39 PM
    This is great news from a reliable company and will be very good for research. Unless you plan on having liquid helium in your living room to support the superconducting, don't count on this showing up anywhere but in the labs and large corporations for decades:-)
  • 2 Hide
    stingstang , June 3, 2012 9:02 PM
    This sounds like a great excuse to begin the cloud takeover of computing. It's never going to be practical to have a superconductor in a house or apartment, but one in a factory server environment? That would work.
  • 2 Hide
    cookoy , June 3, 2012 9:14 PM
    Hard to imagine a thing can have 2 different values at the same time. Like you deposit $1000 in your savings account and the receipt prints you deposited $0. Easy come easy go.
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , June 3, 2012 9:33 PM
    Thousands or millions of qubits as a potential for a superconducting system (read: low temperatures are a must) is going to run head first into the scalability problems of QC. Also, I'm going to take this with a grain of salt because, as with many past such claims about "oh we've solved the problem", practical examples have often come very, very short of their promises. When I see this on the arxiv, with multiple experimental verifications from other groups, I'll nod and move along with my day.
  • 6 Hide
    mcvf , June 3, 2012 9:43 PM
    Lets see when Nvidia is going to sell their first quantum physics accelator as opposed to nowadays physics one :-)
  • 2 Hide
    deksman , June 3, 2012 10:22 PM
    Well, you probably cannot expect them to couple this with 'standard' computers.
    It would be a disaster for the most part.

    If anything, computers today are an embarrassment to what they could have been.
    By now we could have had synthetic diamond as a material for microchips due to its cost effective viability for industrial creation in 1996 (which is when the process seems to have been 'perfected'). Patents of course slowed the usage of synthetic diamonds until 2004, and it wasn't until then that semiconductors out of diamonds were made (right after the patent issue was dealt with actually).

    So, barring patents aside, we could have had insanely powerful computers today that would also suck up less power than the ones we have now (coupled with the premise of non-existent temperatures).

    Now, add graphene into the mix (which is 2 to 3x better than diamond in every respect) at least in some kind of hybrid form, and voila.

    But of course, the market will first introduce a possible silicon/diamond hybrid, followed by a full blown diamond computer and then of course hybrid of diamond/graphene before they finally switch over to graphene entirely.

    Well, maybe it won't take too long... but given how the market operates, coupled with planned obsolescence (unless we change the economic model and force them to provide the best of the best as soon as its available with upgrades in mind that doesn't break down after a short term use, and can be fully recycled) then I guess we can start see some real leaps.

  • 1 Hide
    husker , June 3, 2012 10:30 PM
    bleepboopThousands or millions of qubits as a potential for a superconducting system (read: low temperatures are a must) is going to run head first into the scalability problems of QC. Also, I'm going to take this with a grain of salt because, as with many past such claims about "oh we've solved the problem", practical examples have often come very, very short of their promises. When I see this on the arxiv, with multiple experimental verifications from other groups, I'll nod and move along with my day.

    IBM hasn't claimed anything more or anything less than hitting one of many milestones to make quantum computing possible. I don't thing IBM has anything to gain by exaggerating anything here, and I don't think they are going to give away proprietary information to competition just so it can be "independently confirmed" and satisfy skeptics who read the news. They would rather live and let live, and then proceed to make billions and billions of dollars later.

    As far as the "scalablitly problems of QC" that you mentioned, this actually helps that situation because more stable and therefore "readable" results means that they can ease up on some of the redundancy that was previously needed in order to ensure correct results.
  • 5 Hide
    boiler1990 , June 3, 2012 11:21 PM
    thivaldi1234Did they mention that you'd probably have to have your processor below 30mK for it to work well? This is still a very practical temperature ranger for research labs and other potential operators with the money to run a dilution fridge, but not for the avg Joe.


    We can run the silicon and most GaAs qubits at room temp somewhat decently. IBM is one of the few corporations truly pursuing quantum computing, and most of the issues with QC have been known for some time. If IBM can solve the decoherence problems and develop a scalable device, they wil have basically solved the main limitations to QC.
  • 0 Hide
    DarkenMoon97 , June 3, 2012 11:21 PM
    This is how XP dies.
  • 1 Hide
    joeman99 , June 3, 2012 11:35 PM
    I think they're just saying that to avoid IBM's huge layoff target...It won't work.
  • 0 Hide
    A Bad Day , June 4, 2012 1:45 AM
    beaynI will pre-order my 250-qubit hard drive now please.


    Remember those old days where a 1 megabyte hard drive cost several thousand dollars?
  • -2 Hide
    tomfreak , June 4, 2012 6:54 AM
    I got 2500K OCed now, but my OS like win7 doesnt even use all of it to think for me. My computer =win 7 doesnt think. I still need to do everything manually.
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