IBM has 50 qubit prototype chip which should be close to Quantum Supremacy

Quantum Supremacy is when quantum computers become faster than classical computers. Once Quantum Computers surpass classical computers they will continue to improve at a far more rapid pace. Doubling the transistors on a regular chip might achieve double the performance doubling the qubits on a quantum computer can provide an exponential speedup depending upon the kind of problem it is trying to solve. Dwave has shown speed ups of 10,000 time or more by doubling the qubits in their quantum annealing systems.

IBM Q scientists have successfully built and measured a 50 qubit processor prototype. Expanding on the 20 qubit architecture, it will be the next-gen IBM Q system. IBM aims to demonstrate capabilities beyond today’s classical systems with systems of this size.

Above – IBM 50Q System: An IBM cryostat wired for a 50 qubit system.

The first IBM Q systems available online to clients will have a 20 qubit processor. This new device’s advanced design, connectivity and packaging delivers industry-leading coherence times (the amount of time to perform quantum computations), which are double that of IBM’s 5 and 16 qubit processors available to the public on the IBM Q experience.

Expansion of IBM’s open-source quantum package QISKit ( with new functionalities and tools. The software development kit enables users to create quantum computer programs and execute them on one of IBM’s real quantum processors or quantum simulators along with worked examples of quantum applications. Through the IBM Q experience, over 60,000 users have run over 1.7M quantum experiments and generated over 35 third-party research publications.

20-qubit machine has double the coherence time, at an average of 90 µs, compared to previous generations of quantum processors with an average of 50 µs. It is also designed to scale; the 50-qubit prototype has similar performance. Our goal with both the IBM Q experience, and our commercial program is to collaborate with our extended community of partners to accelerate the path to demonstrating a quantum advantage for solving real problems that matter.

Over the next year, IBM Q scientists will continue to work to improve its devices including the quality of qubits, circuit connectivity, and error rates of operations. For example, within six months, the IBM team was able to extend the coherence times for the 20 qubit processor to be twice that of the publically available 5 and 16 qubit systems on the IBM Q experience.

In addition to building working systems, IBM continues to grow its robust quantum computing ecosystem, including open-source software tools, applications for near-term systems, and educational and enablement materials for the quantum community. Through the IBM Q experience, over 60,000 users have run over 1.7M quantum experiments and generated over 35 third-party research publications. Users have registered from over 1500 universities, 300 high schools, and 300 private institutions worldwide, many of whom are accessing the IBM Q experience as part of their formal education. This form of open access and open research is critical for accelerated learning and implementation of quantum computing.

To augment this ecosystem of quantum researchers and application development, IBM rolled out earlier this year its QISKit ( project, an open-source software developer kit to program and run quantum computers. IBM Q scientists have now expanded QISKit to enable users to create quantum computing programs and execute them on one of IBM’s real quantum processors or quantum simulators available online. Recent additions to QISKit also include new functionality and visualization tools for studying the state of the quantum system, integration of QISKit with the IBM Data Science Experience, a compiler that maps desired experiments onto the available hardware, and worked examples of quantum applications.

Quantum computing promises to be able to solve certain problems – such as chemical simulations and types of optimization – that will forever be beyond the practical reach of classical machines. In a recent Nature paper, the IBM Q team pioneered a new way to look at chemistry problems using quantum hardware that could one day transform the way new drugs and materials are discovered. A Jupyter notebook that can be used to repeat the experiments that led to this quantum chemistry breakthrough is available in the QISKit tutorials. Similar tutorials are also provided that detail implementation of optimization problems such as MaxCut and Traveling Salesman on IBM’s quantum hardware.

This groundbreaking work demonstrates it is possible to solve interesting problems using near term devices and that it will be possible to find a quantum advantage over classical computers. IBM has made significant strides tackling problems on small scale universal quantum computing systems. Improvements to error mitigation and to the quality of qubits are our focus for making quantum computing systems useful for practical applications in the near future.

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