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IBM Says Practical Quantum Computers are Close

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.

  • drwho1
    Quantum Leap
  • lashabane
    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.
  • amuffin
    But can we multiply over 15? That is in atoms of course! :)
  • beayn
    I will pre-order my 250-qubit hard drive now please.
  • shloader
    "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'.
  • capt_taco
    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.
  • thivaldi1234
    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.
  • jprahman
    9372292 said:
    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.
  • stevo777
    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:-)
  • stingstang
    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.