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IBM wants to build quantum computers with 100,000 qubits

At the beginning of November 2022, IBM presented Osprey, a quantum computer with 433 qubits – at that time the world’s largest quantum computer system. The company is now setting itself a far greater goal, as announced by IBM at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

IBM: Supercomputer with 100,000 qubits planned

According to this, a supercomputer with 100,000 qubits is to be created within the next ten years. IBM is working on this with the Universities of Tokyo and Chicago. The quantum computing initiative is funded with a sum of 100 million dollars.

In the future, the record-breaking supercomputer should solve problems that no standard supercomputer could solve on its own, writes MIT Technology Review. The 100,000 qubits, the idea goes, could work in tandem with the best of classical supercomputers, said Jay Gambetta, IBM’s vice president of quantum computing.

Quantum-centric supercomputing as a problem solver

The plan is to use the interaction of quantum and supercomputing to achieve breakthroughs in drug research, fertilizer production, battery power and a multitude of other applications. “I call it quantum-centric supercomputing,” says Gambetta.

So far, industry observers say, quantum computers have accomplished little that supercomputers couldn’t. The reason: the available quantum computers simply have too few qubits and are too quickly distracted by disturbances in the environment.

Upscaling the quantum systems, i.e. increasing the number of qubits installed, should help to correct the errors caused by the background noise. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds, however.

Tech nostalgia from the 90s

Meanwhile, quantum computers like the ones IBM builds can only be scaled up to 5,000 qubits. More powerful quantum computers would require new technologies. The main focus is on more energy-efficient control of the qubits.

IBM’s superconducting qubits are energy guzzlers

According to Gambetta, IBM’s superconducting qubits would currently require about 65 watts each. At 100,000 qubits, one machine would need something the size of a building, a nuclear power plant, and $1 billion, Gambetta said.

University research is correspondingly important. Google has also recognized this and is investing 50 million dollars in cooperation with two universities. Google and the Californian startup Psiquantum are planning quantum computers with one million qubits by 2030.

IBM Kookaburra: 1,386 qubit processor

In the coming months, IBM will first bake smaller rolls. In 2025, the Kookaburra will be launched, a multi-chip processor with 1,386 qubits and a quantum communication link.

According to Gambetta, it is not certain that IBM will achieve the goal of a 100,000 qubit system with the 100 million investment. “There’s definitely a risk,” Gambetta said.

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