The quantum roadmap represents what the company thinks will take it from “the noisy, small-scale devices of today to the million-plus qubit devices of the future.” Currently the company’s researchers are developing a suite of scalable, increasingly larger and better processors, with a 1,000-plus qubit device – called IBM Quantum Condor – targeted for the end of 2023.
In addition, in order to house even more massive devices beyond Condor, the company is developing a dilution refrigerator larger than any currently available commercially.
“This roadmap puts us on a course toward the future’s million-plus qubit processors thanks to industry-leading knowledge, multidisciplinary teams, and agile methodology improving every element of these systems,” says Jay Gambetta, IBM Fellow and Vice President, IBM Quantum. “All the while, our hardware roadmap sits at the heart of a larger mission: to design a full-stack quantum computer deployed via the cloud that anyone around the world can program.”
The biggest challenge facing the researchers today, says the company, is figuring out how to control large systems of qubits for long enough, and with few enough errors, to run the complex quantum circuits required by future quantum applications.
“IBM has been exploring superconducting qubits since the mid-2000s, increasing coherence times and decreasing errors to enable multi-qubit devices in the early 2010s,” says Gambetta. “Continued refinements and advances at every level of the system from the qubits to the compiler allowed us to put the first quantum computer in the cloud in 2016.”
Next year the company says it expects to debut its 127-qubit IBM Quantum Eagle processor, which features several upgrades in order to surpass the 100-qubit milestone. The Eagle processor will also introduce concurrent real-time classical compute capabilities that will allow for execution of a broader family of quantum circuits and codes.
“The design principles established for our smaller processors will set us on a course to release a 433-qubit IBM Quantum Osprey system in 2022,” says Gambetta. “More efficient and denser controls and cryogenic infrastructure will ensure that scaling up our processors doesn’t sacrifice the performance of our individual qubits, introduce further sources of noise, or take up too large a footprint.”
The 1,121-qubit IBM Quantum Condor processor expected to debut in 2023, says the company, will incorporate the lessons learned from previous processors while continuing to lower the critical two-qubit errors so that longer quantum circuits can be run.
“We think of Condor as an inflection point,” says Gambetta. “A milestone that marks our ability to implement error correction and scale up our devices, while simultaneously complex enough to explore potential Quantum Advantages — problems that we can solve more efficiently on a quantum computer than on the world’s best supercomputers.”
“The development required to build Condor will have solved some of the most pressing challenges in the way of scaling up a quantum computer,” says Gambetta. “However, as we explore realms even further beyond the thousand qubit mark, today’s commercial dilution refrigerators will no longer be capable of effectively cooling and isolating such potentially large, complex devices.”
As a result, the company says it is introducing a 10-foot-tall and six-foot-wide “super-fridge” – internally codenamed “Goldeneye” – a dilution refrigerator larger than any commercially available today. The company’s researchers designed this behemoth with a million-qubit system in mind — and have already begun fundamental feasibility tests.
“Ultimately,” says Gambetta, “we envision a future where quantum interconnects link dilution refrigerators each holding a million qubits like the intranet links supercomputing processors, creating a massively parallel quantum computer capable of changing the world.”
“Knowing the way forward doesn’t remove the obstacles; we face some of the biggest challenges in the history of technological progress.” says Gambetta, “But, with our clear vision, a fault-tolerant quantum computer now feels like an achievable goal within the coming decade.”
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