IBM makes quantum leap with Eagle
The release of the 127-qubit chip – dubbed Eagle – was announced at IBM’s Quantum Summit this week, and marks a milestone in the firm’s efforts to develop large-scale quantum computers.
The technology is still at an early stage and currently doesn’t lend itself to many practical applications.
However, it is believed that future quantum computers with more qubits than today’s systems could take on calculations too complex for even the fastest classical supercomputers.
At that point, IBM says it will be close to what is termed “quantum advantage,” – the point at which quantum computers can beat classical computers.
A qubit – or quantum bit – is the quantum version of the classic binary bit.
IBM’s senior vice president and director of research Dario Gil predicted that quantum advantage would happen within the next couple of years.
Gil added that, in the interim, supercomputers and quantum computers would work in tandem to solve tasks, depending on what worked best for each task.
While Eagle made its debut this week, IBM has already announced future iterations of its quantum hardware in its ‘Quantum Advantage roadmap’, which it made public last year.
According to the roadmap, Eagle will be followed by Osprey next year, a processor that will have more than 400 qubits. In 2023 this will be followed by an even more powerful processor, Condor, featuring over 1,000 qubits.
Qubits are hard to build and require huge cryogenic refrigerators to operate correctly. Quantum scientists are currently building a Condor-powered quantum computer inside a 10-foot-tall and 6-foot-wide super-fridge – internally codenamed “Goldeneye”.
In its roadmap, IBM said that Condor laid the groundwork for scaling to fully error-corrected, interconnected, 1-million-plus-qubit quantum computers.
The firm hopes that these multi-million-qubit super-fridges, connected via intranets, will make the exploration of classically intractable problems possible for any number of industries, including finance, chemistry and AI.
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