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IBM unveils quantum supercomputer which could reach 4,000 qubits by 2025

IBM plans to move into a more modular design for future quantum computers to allow for more flexibility and rapid scale-up of qubits.

By Ryan Morrison

Tech giant IBM has unveiled plans for a future quantum-centred supercomputer named IBM Quantum System Two that will start to come online by the end of next year and reach over 4,000 qubits by 2025. The quantum computer announcement comes on the same day the company revealed its 433 qubit Osprey processor.

IBM has released the 433 qubit Osprey chip and plans to move into more modular designs for future quantum processors. (Photo courtesy of IBM)

Announced at the IBM Quantum Summit, System Two is designed to be modular and flexible, combining multiple quantum processors into a single system with communication links between them allowing for faster scale-up of qubit numbers.

It is a building block in IBM’s path to quantum-centric supercomputing which will also allow interaction with classical computers and be accessible through a hybrid cloud. This will allow developers and engineers “to seamlessly integrate quantum and classical workflows”.

Jay Gambetta, IBM Fellow and vice president of IBM Quantum said 2023 is a major inflection point for quantum computing, the starting point when the quantum-centric supercomputer is first realised and scaling is enabled. He said that it does so by “combining quantum communication and computation to increase computational capacity”.

The goal is to have more than 4,000 qubits available in System Two by 2025, but quantum-centric supercomputing will require more than just a lot of qubits, explained Gambetta in a blog post. He says there needs to be a greater depth and integration.

IBM targets 16,000-qubit quantum supercomputer

The eventual goal is to link three Quantum System Twos together to create a setup with more than 16,000 qubits, driven not just by the processor but through long-range couplers linking processors. “System Two is the culmination of our advances into an iconic architecture, representative of the direction we’re taking the quantum age,” said Gambetta.

IBM also revealed its 100×100 challenge, that is where they plan to utilise the 133 qubit Heron chip, set for release next year and based on a modular architecture, to crack a circuit made of 100 qubits and with 100 quantum gate steps. They’ll carry out calculations not possible with a classical computer within a day, with a low error rate and unbiased results.

“Our mission statement is to bring useful quantum computing to the world. We’re going to continue to provide the best full-stack quantum offering in the industry — and it’s up to the industry to put those full-stack quantum systems to use,” said Gambetta.

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Part of that ‘full stack’ is the unveiling of the 433-qubit Osprey processor, which is the fastest available from IBM and a significant step up from the previous-generation 127-qubit Eagle chip.

“The new 433 qubit ‘Osprey’ processor brings us a step closer to the point where quantum computers will be used to tackle previously unsolvable problems,” said Dr Darío Gil, senior vice president and director of research at IBM. “We are continuously scaling up and advancing our quantum technology across hardware, software and classical integration to meet the biggest challenges of our time, in conjunction with our partners and clients worldwide. This work will prove foundational for the coming era of quantum-centric supercomputing.”

Osprey and API access

Osprey can run complex quantum computations beyond the capability of a classical computer, the company claims, and also has improved software for error correction.

To improve the reliability of quantum devices, IBM has turned to Qiskit Runtime software, which allows a user to trade speed for reduced error count as an API option. IBM says this will make it easier for users to incorporate quantum computing into their workflows as it is presented through an abstraction layer, further speeding up the development of quantum applications.

There are now some 200 organisations and 450,000 users connected to the IBM Quantum Network, which includes cloud access to a fleet of 20 quantum computers, with Osprey set to be the next generation of quantum processor added to this network. This includes extensive partnerships with companies like Vodafone where IBM is helping find quantum-safe cryptography solutions.

It is likely that in the future, System Two and quantum-centered supercomputing will be the main source of processing capability within the network, again accessible over the cloud. “As we continue to increase the scale of quantum systems and make them simpler to use, we will continue to see adoption and growth of the quantum industry,” said Gambetta.

Read more: Can post-quantum encryption save the internet?

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