IBM has unveiled a quantum processor equipped with over three times the number of qubits of its predecessor. The 433-qubit Osprey processor, based on superconducting circuits, has the potential to run complex quantum computations well beyond the computational capability of any classical computer, Big Blue claims. It “brings us a step closer to the point where quantum computers will be used to tackle previously unsolvable problems. This work will prove foundational for the coming era of quantum-centric supercomputing,” said Darío Gil, research director at IBM.
IBM made a 5-qubit quantum computer available via the cloud in 2016. Since then, it has presented upgrades in more or less a yearly cadence. Last year, the spotlight was on the 127-qubit Eagle and next year, the Condor is slated to crack the 1000-qubit barrier. The current roadmap takes the company to over 4150 qubits by the end of 2025.
In parallel, IBM has been working on Quantum System Two, in which multiple processors are linked up into a single system. The first iteration of this modular architecture will be part of IBM’s cloud quantum computing service starting in 2023.
As always, it’s important to remember that cranking up the number of qubits is not the only prerequisite to building quantum computers that can perform useful tasks. It’s just as important to develop strong error correction, limiting the number of physical qubits needed to build one logical qubit. IBM is also working on that, but the press release doesn’t mention what progress has been made there.
Incidentally, Gil also told Bloomberg that quantum technology, like semiconductor technology, will probably be subject to export controls. IBM has recommended to the Biden administration to target the use of quantum computing, rather than basing it on processing power.