Above: Members of the IBM Quantum team at work. Credit: Connie Zhou for IBM
IBM announced an ambitious quantum computing roadmap that includes an array of 1,000 qubits (Qbit) quantum computer by the end of 2023. Today’s machinres consist of only a few dozen qubits. According to IBM, the number of qubits in quantum processors will double every year or two. In 2022 IBM will complete the development of a quantum processor with 400 cubits, and in 2023 it will launch a processor with 1,121 cubits to be called Condor.
IBM’s vision is very ambitious: “Our future computers will include more than a million qubits.” IBM is one of the most advanced players in quantum computing. In 2016, it was the first to offer public access to its quantum computer via the cloud. Today, IBM’s cloud provides access to more than 20 quantum computers of 5-qubits and 24-qubits. Earlier this year it launched a new 65-qubit quantum computer, which is the most powerful quantum computer to date.
“Super-fridges” for millions of qubits
IBM is using superconductors to build the new computers, due to their zero resistance at low temperatures. As part of the needed infrastructure, it will build a 10-foot-tall and 6-foot-wide super-refrigerator (to be called Goldeneye), which can accommodate arrays of 1,000 qubits. The long range goal is to build a network of interconnected “super-fridges” that together provide a computing capability of one million qubits.
These fridges keep the qubit array at a temperature close to absolute zero, in order to avoid any electromagnetic interference that may interrupt the quantum circuit. In quantum computing, the smallest radiation can destroy the computational process, thus the biggest challenge in developing a large quantum computer is the ability to preserve the quantum state of the qubits, until the computational process is completed.
Cracking the cholesterol mystery
Speaking with Techime, Nir Minerbi, CEO of the Israel-based Classiq which develops software solutions for quantum computing, explained the practical significance of IBM’s roadmap. “The very fact that a company like IBM, which does not usually release far-reaching statements, presents a detailed technological roadmap with clear goals– increases the industry’s confidence in the future of quantum computing.”
According to Minerbi, quantum computing is a “tie-breaker” in exactly the types of problems that classical computers, and even supercomputers, have difficulty dealing with. “All the supercomputers in the world, together, will never be able to simulate a single cholesterol molecule. But a quantum computer with several hundred qubits will be able to do this, and will be able to test how different molecules react with cholesterol and to develop drugs.”
The next layer of Quantum Stack
Classiq is developing CAD solutions that will make it possible to write applications for quantum computers. “The quantum revolution consists of two things: hardware and software. Nowadays it is almost impossible to develop applications for a quantum computer, since you have to program at the logic gate level. It’s like designing a chip at the transistor level. We build the tools that allow developing applications at a higher level of abstraction. The next layer in the quantum stack.”
For Classiq, IBM’s roadmap is good news. “As computers get stronger, more companies are interested in developing applications for quantum computers. Today, the entire industry is looking at IBM’s statement. Now there is a clear horizon, and companies know that in a few years there will be quantum computers running significant algorithms. That’s why they are now starting to invest in software development and will need solutions like ours.”