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.