IBM quantum computer moves beyond classical supercomputing

IBM quantum computer moves beyond classical supercomputing

Technology News |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

IBM has announced a new breakthrough, published in the scientific journal Nature, demonstrating for the first time that a quantum computer can produce accurate results at a scale of 100+ qubits reaching beyond leading classical approaches.

One of the ultimate goals of quantum computing is to simulate components of materials that classical computers have never efficiently simulated. Being able to model these is a crucial step towards the ability to tackle challenges such as designing more efficient fertilizers, building better batteries, and creating new medicines. But today’s quantum systems are inherently noisy and they produce a significant number of errors that hamper performance. This is due to the fragile nature of quantum bits or qubits and disturbances from their environment.

In their experiment, the IBM team demonstrates that it is possible for a quantum computer to outperform leading classical simulations by learning and mitigating errors in the system. The team used the IBM Quantum ‘Eagle’ quantum processor composed of 127 superconducting qubits on a chip to generate large, entangled states that simulate the dynamics of spins in a model of material and accurately predict properties such as its magnetization.

To verify the accuracy of this modeling, a team of scientists at UC Berkeley simultaneously performed these simulations on advanced classical computers located at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and Purdue University. As the scale of the model increased, the quantum computer continued to turn out accurate results with the help of advanced error mitigation techniques, even while the classical computing methods eventually faltered and did not match the IBM Quantum system.

“This is the first time we have seen quantum computers accurately model a physical system in nature beyond leading classical approaches,” said Darío Gil, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research. “To us, this milestone is a significant step in proving that today’s quantum computers are capable, scientific tools that can be used to model problems that are extremely difficult — and perhaps impossible — for classical systems, signaling that we are now entering a new era of utility for quantum computing.”

Following this groundbreaking work, IBM is also announcing that its IBM Quantum systems running both on the cloud and on-site at partner locations will be powered by a minimum of 127 qubits, to be completed over the course of the next year.

These processors provide access to computational power large enough to surpass classical methods for certain applications and will offer improved coherence times as well as lower error rates over previous IBM quantum systems. Such capabilities can be combined with continuously advancing error mitigation techniques to enable IBM Quantum systems to meet a new threshold for the industry, which IBM has termed ‘utility-scale,’ a point at which quantum computers could serve as scientific tools to explore a new scale of problems that classical systems may never be able to solve.

“As we progress our mission to bring useful quantum computing to the world, we have solid evidence of the cornerstones needed to explore an entirely new class of computational problems,” said Jay Gambetta, IBM Fellow and Vice President, IBM Quantum. “By equipping our IBM Quantum systems with processors capable of utility scale, we are inviting our clients, partners and collaborators to bring their hardest problems to explore the limits of today’s quantum systems and to begin extracting real value.”

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