IBM advances quantum computing ball

IBM advances quantum computing ball

Summary: Big Blue scientist Matthias Steffan said that quantum computing is moving from the experimental stage to the point where "it's time to start creating systems."


IBM on Tuesday will present three records for cutting errors while maintaining mechanical properties in quantum bits, which are the basic units that carry data in quantum computing.

Quantum computing refers to designing computers based on quantum mechanics, the science of atomic structure and function. Quantum bits can hold an infinite number of values.

The findings will be presented at the Annual Physical Society meeting this week in Boston.

Quantum bits (qubits) (see gallery) can potentially work on millions of computations at once relative to a desktop PC, which can only do a few things at once.

Big Blue scientist Matthias Steffan said that quantum computing is moving from the experimental stage to the point where "it's time to start creating systems."

IBM's key items include:

  • An experiment with a 3D superconducting qubit. The approach was started at Yale, but an IBM team used the 3D qubit to extend the time of a quantum state to 100 microseconds. That threshold is just beyond the minimum needed to correct errors. These error corrections indicate quantum computing could scale.
  • IBM also demonstrated a two-dimensional qubit device.
  • IN addition, IBM conducted a two-qubit logic operation, which is a building block for a larger system. IBM had a 95 percent success rate.

The goal for IBM is to create a practical quantum computer.

Among the key images:

Here's a 3D supercomputing qubit device. A qubit (about 1mm in length) is suspended in the center of the cavity on a small Sapphire chip.

Here's the side view of the 3D qubit device.

IBM's 2D qubit. A picture of the Silicon chip housing a total of three qubits. The chip is back-mounted on a PC board and connects to I/O coaxial lines via wire bonds (scale: 8mm x 4mm). A larger assembly of such qubits and resonators are envisioned to be used for a scalable architecture.

A wider view of the Silicon chip housing a total of three qubits. The chip is back-mounted on a PC board and connects to I/O coaxial lines via wire bonds (scale: 8mm x 4mm). A larger assembly of such qubits and resonators are envisioned to be used for a scalable architecture.

A magnified qubit.

A dilution refrigerator. IBM needs the dilution refrigerator to get down to 15 to 20 millikelvin in order to keep the quantum states very pure and to get them into their ground states before any experiments are done. IBM keeps the qubits this cold to cut down on "thermal noise."

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  • odd, my post get deleted?

    Odd, did my previous post get deleted?

    "Quantum bits can hold an infinite number of values."

    I have a bit of a quibble with this - it's a bit more complicated, but suffice to say we're not looking at the death of storage technologies because of quantum computers. They're great machines, but this isn't going to be magic.
    • See how it works. Zdnet plays with a stacked deck.

      What happened to your posts? :0 :) :0

      A quantum leap backwards?
  • Take my wife

    You: How much is 2 plus 2?

    Quantum computer: if I tell you, you won't know where you are.
    Robert Hahn
    • Alternatively....

      You: How much is 2 plus 2?

      Quantum Computer: Oh, around 4, give or take a little.
      PC Ferret
      • still more...

        Didn't Intel tell us the same thing a few years back?
      • Intel

        I am Pentium of Borg. Division is futile. You will be approximated.
        Robert Hahn
    • quantum mathematics

      You: How much is 2 plus 2?

      Quantum computer: I'm not sure. Ask Schrodinger's cat.
  • Funny how clueless some are.

    I suppose that when we have devices that measure battery life in years, storge in the terabye range, all in a shirt pocket comes along they will still be clueless.

    I swear, these clods sound like the same people saying transitors were "just a curiousity, they will never replace vacuum tubes". Pfftttt....
    • I don't understand your response

      Sounds like a couple of people just having fun with the idea of symmetry breakdown to me...

    Ugh. There is so much wrong here it is hard to know where to begin. This is an expanded version of my post in the gallery.
    First, the pictures do NOT show a qubit. It is no more possible to image a qubit than it is to image a classical bit. The picture shows a qubit storage device.
    More importantly, qubits can NOT store infinite numbers of states. The very definition of a qubit is a particle system that can exist in one of TWO quantum states, such as a photon, which can have one of two polarization states, or an electron, that can have one of two quantum spin states (1/2 and -1/2). The interesting thing about qubits is that they can hold all states simultaneously. As such, as long as the quantum state is not read/observed, they can act as intermediary in a large number of calculations simultaneously. This allows the amount of space needed to perform a given function to decrease exponentially. In addition, through other properties such as quantum entanglement, they can be made to operate on other qubits at what is essentially simultaneity, i.e., instantaneously. They can thus operate at incredible speeds, performing huge numbers of operations in parallel.
    In addition, qubit devices can not work on ANY calculations, let alone millions at once. They can only do one thing and one thing only, store qubits. What is necessary is to string together other quantum devices, including qubit storage, that can operate as NAND gates in a quantum state fluctuation. THIS is what allows the actual performance of basic calculations. In order to do this, the device must be able to hold state for at least on the order of 10E2 microseconds, to allow basic error correction. Otherwise, without this wait state, the resulting bit value can not be verified as being the proper result of any given calculation, and thus is bogus. This is very difficult to achieve, even at temperatures close to 0K (absolute zero).
    THIS is what IBM has done.
    This is the real accomplishment, and should have been the headline and central point of the article.
    • Is low temperature required?


      Thanks very much for the additional technical backgrounds. Can you please explain some more?

      1- Is "close to absolute zero" temperature a requirement for s quantum computer to operate?

      2- How many qbits (approx) are contained in a quantum storage device?

      3- Does quantum computing still rely on boolean algebra?

      Thanks in advance.
      • Yes

        1) Yes, the system is kept close to 0K
        2) one
        3) Yes
  • A Quantum computer in a shirt pocket? ...

    would not be a lot of use if a truck load of refrigeration equipment were needed to make the thing cold enough to operate. If ultra low temperatures are required, quantum computers will be severely limited in use to large organisations which can afford the large, expensive, power-hungry refrigeration units. This means mass production will not happen so the quantum computers themselves will be very expensive. My prediction is that they'll remain a research curiosity for at least 10 years - but I hope I'll be proved wrong! ;)
    • Not necessarily

      There are a number of initiatives to increase the base temperature, and there are a number of technologies that can be incorporated at the circuit level that can keep the small devices close to 0K.
  • Could happen

    Research on room-temperature superconductors is continuing; it's impossible to predict when a breakthrough could happen.

    Helicopters can't fly, and nuclear fission is impossible. Keep repeating this mantra while the world passes you by. Nearly all of the technology we use today was, at one time, an "interesting curiosity." Interesting curiosities have a way of growing into necessary devices -- like cars, airplanes, radios, etc. Not all avenues of research lead to El Dorado, but sometimes knowing what to avoid is as useful as knowing what to accept.

    Thanks for the humor; without a sense of humor, there wouldn't be much sense left in the world. As for me, I'm going back to thinking inside the box; there's nobody left in here but me and Schroedinger's cat -- maybe.
  • Amazing..

    I remember when a 6SN7 was a flip-flop.
  • Deleted Posts

    Well, it seems my post has been deleted too, but I guess I'll try it again. As I recall, I asked how one would program such a bizarre beast & got 2 not too enlightening replies, one of w referred me to a 2 year old N.Y.Times article w wasn't too helpful either, so I got a book by Nielsen & Chuang w proved more relevant but got entangled in all kinds of horrible matrix operations, eigenvectors, residues & whatnot reminiscent of Heisenberg; w reminded me that I had heard somewhere that Schroedinger (or Maxwell, I forget which) had developed his original formulations using Quaternions, then translated the results into a more popular formulation, after the fact, for public consumption; so I'm wondering if anybody knows if Gruska's earlier book mentions Quaternions at all, or thinks Quaternions might prove a useful base for the development of a Quantum programming language?

    P.S. @deusexmachina??: If boolean algebra is still useful, should it be reformulated ala Laws of Form to provide boolean arithmetic?