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IBM Announces New Developments That May Lead To Practical Quantum Computers

29 April 2015, 11:47 pm EDT By Dianne Depra Tech Times
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IBM researchers unveiled Wednesday two critical advances in quantum computing, allowing for the first time the detection and measurement of quantum errors simultaneously and demonstrating a new circuit design that can be successfully scaled to bigger dimensions.

Quantum computing is poised to usher in the beginning of a new era in innovation across various industries, as Moore's Law takes a backseat, opening up new opportunities in simulation and optimization not yet tapped into, no thanks to current computing capabilities. If it were possible to build a quantum computer with just 50 quantum bits, even combining TOP500 supercomputers would not be enough to outperform it.

There are two types of quantum errors: bit-flip and phase-flip. For the first time, IBM has shown that it is now possible to detect and measure the quantum errors at the same time. Before, quantum computers could only address one type of error at a time. This development in quantum computing improves error correction, a critical requirement in building large-scale quantum computers that are both reliable and practical.

As for the circuit, it is based off a square lattice about a quarter of an inch in size, fitted with four superconducting quantum bits. By choosing a square shape instead of a linear array, IBM made it possible to detect quantum errors at the same time and was able to show that the best potential to scale can be achieved by adding quantum bits until a working system is realized.

Arvind Krishna, director and senior vice president for IBM Research, said quantum computing has a high potential to be transformative, which would allow researchers to solve problems that have been deemed impractical or impossible.

Quantum computers have been typically used for exploring cryptography, but researchers at IBM are confident in the capabilities of quantum systems solving problems in quantum chemistry and physics.

Krishna added that the developments IBM presented have enormous potential in drug or material design, paving the way for a new set of applications. For example, quantum computing can make it possible for researchers to design drugs and materials without having to go through expensive experiments, speeding up how innovation finds its way to different industries.

The results of IBM's research was published in the journal Nature Communications. The study received funding support from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity's multi-qubit-coherent-operations program. This work represents IBM's commitment toward processing quantum information, an effort that began in 1981.

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