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New quantum parameter: IBM reaches 433 qubits with new Osprey processor, capacity greater than the number of atoms in the universe | technology


From left, Dario Gill, Vice President and President of IBM Research;  Jay Gambetta, of IBM's Thomas J Watsonand Research Center, with an Osprey chip in hand, and Jerry Chao, director of the Experimental Quantum Computing Group, at the company's Quantum Center in New York, in 2021.
From left, Dario Gill, Vice President and President of IBM Research; Jay Gambetta, of IBM’s Thomas J Watsonand Research Center, with an Osprey chip in hand, and Jerry Chao, director of the Experimental Quantum Computing Group, at the company’s Quantum Center in New York, in 2021.IBM

According to Alberto Casas, researcher at CSIC and author of Quantum Revolution (B editions, 2022). The physicist in his book predicted an imminent achievement of this outstanding milestone, which has already been achieved. The multinational IBM on Wednesday introduced its new Osprey (Osprey) processor, bringing it to 433 cubits, more than three times the capacity it achieved just one year ago with the Eagle (127 cubits) and a tenth of what they expected in 2025. It is a necessary step for the development of Efficient quantum computers, capable of performing large-scale practical calculations in a robust manner, without errors.

Classical physics does not explain our world, although it has served us well so far, especially in the macroscopic field. Quantum science, which studies nature and interactions at the atomic and subatomic level, begins to offer possible explanations and maintains two paths that intersect: the theoretical path, which aspires to answer fundamental questions, such as what dark matter is made of. The practice that wants to apply the laws of quantum to operations such as arithmetic to double the ability to study and understand life and everything that surrounds it. This last track crossed a new target.

A qubit is the minimum unit of quantum computing, and unlike a conventional bit – which is used in common technology – it doesn’t have just two values ​​(0 and 1), but can have these two or any superposition. who are they. If the current supercomputer is capable of performing millions of byte operations (the IBM apex can process more than 200 billion computations per second), then a quantum computer can perform trillions. Hence the importance of increasing the capacity of qubits in the models under development and reducing errors that affect this technology.

This is one of the achievements of IBM, which maintains its own roadmap for achieving an efficient quantum computer. The milestone was announced this Wednesday, made possible by innovations in programming (software) and in hardware (physical or physical elements of computers and computer systems), is the basis for the future launch of Condor, which will be the world’s first quantum processor with more than 1,000 qubits. This will be followed by Kookaburra (Kokapura), which is scheduled for 2025 and will have a capacity of more than 4,000. According to IBM CEO, Arvind Krishna, this latest computer “will be able to perform calculations that would require a traditional computer roughly the size of the Earth.”

In this race for “quantum advantage,” a term referring to developments based on this physics that outperform classical computers, there are also companies like Google or Rigetti.

To achieve this, IBM focuses not only on quantum properties, but also includes conventional processors based on their efficiency in computing tasks. The goal is to develop a circuit fabric to distribute complex problems across multiple processors.

second quantum system
second quantum systemIBM

In this way, to triple the capacity of the Eagle (the processor that crossed the 100-kilobit barrier), the new Osprey is included in the new IBM Quantum System II, a modular and flexible system for integrating multiple chips (integrated circuits) connected by a control system. This will be available online in the first quarter of 2023 and is crucial for developing a modular architecture with quantum connectivity – which increases computational power – and with a hybrid cloud system that allows the integration of quantum and classical workflows. “We have We are finalizing what the system will look like from a design perspective and we are working to build it, put it in place and prove it next year,” says Jay Gambetta, a physicist who He leads the IBM Thomas J Watson Research Center team to develop a quantum computer.

It will be the basis of Crossbill, the first single processor made from multiple chips, and Flamingo, which will include quantum communication links. Both developments are scheduled for 2024. A year later, with the two technologies combined, it is expected to introduce the Kookaburra, a quantum system with three processors and 4158 qubits that aims to open the door to overcoming the 100,000 qubit barrier.

Noise problem

But to take advantage of the computational advantage of qubits, a difficult problem must be overcome. Quantum superpositions of states that allow trillions of combinations and thus an almost infinite computing power are very sensitive to the environment. Any minimal environmental condition (temperature, electromagnetic noise or vibration) degrades the overlays and generates errors.

“Building a practically usable, error-tolerant quantum computer is one of the biggest challenges for humans,” says Jian Wei Pan, China’s chief computer expert. “The most terrifying obstacle is the presence of noise and defects. We need to use quantum error correction and error-tolerant operations to overcome noise and scale the system. “

IBM Quantum Osprey processor.
IBM Quantum Osprey processor.IBM

One formula to mitigate this drawback is to create environments in which interactions with the environment, such as cooling systems, are reduced to a temperature close to absolute zero (-273°C). But errors can also be remedied as soon as they occur, by implementing systems, such as the Qiskit Runtime Primitives that include Osprey introduced on Wednesday. This evolution is an environment of classical and quantum systems that increase the speed and quality of computing. In addition, dynamic circuits, an alternative circuit-building model for quantum error correction, have been added. IBM plans to introduce new bug prevention and mitigation systems to help kernel developers manage noise and fix bugs.

Compared to physical alternatives, Qiskit Runtime Primitives allows programming of noise-proof solutions, making it easier, according to the company, “for users to integrate quantum computing into their workflow and accelerate the development of quantum applications.”

Oliver Dial, Head of Architecture at hardware At IBM, she believes, they are not too far off from reducing noise: “In the next two years, we will be able to do something no one has done before. Which is the challenge. If we can provide an estimate that is free of observable noise, we will be in the range where we can During which they begin to solve interesting problems with our customers. ”

In this way, according to IBM, the quantum race will not require a computer with this technology, but the developer will be able to integrate certain functions and quantum computations into their software that will be implemented in the cloud. It will be combined with fluency in applications that will combine new and existing technology.

A 4,000-kilobyte computer would be able to perform calculations that would require a conventional computer roughly the size of the Earth.

Arvind Krishna, CEO of IBM

Alejandro González Tudela, a scientific researcher at CSIC’s Institute for Fundamental Physics, believes that the possibilities of quantum computing are extraordinary and that many of them have yet to be discovered. One area of ​​application, in his opinion, is “questions of many bodies, with many elements interacting with each other and which are difficult to solve in classical computers”. Two examples would be molecular simulation or the development of new materials, fields with an exponential dimension not achievable for conventional systems.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and, in particular, neural networks, which attempt to simulate the human brain, will also make use of this technology to classify, analyze and extract patterns and knowledge from images, words or concepts of any type of language in any area. . In this sense, IBM has a system capable of interpreting the language of chemistry to predict the most likely outcome of a given reaction.

This convergence of bits, neural networks, and qubits is the technological foundation for a new era of discovery and a revolutionary future for scientific innovation as well as for companies and organizations.

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