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US Intelligence Agency Awards Grant To Advance IBM Quantum Computer Research

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Quantum computer systems are often easily affected by the vulnerability of quantum bits or qubits to electromagnetic radiation and heat.

For error-free computing, qubits have to be cooled to near absolute zero (-459 degrees Fahrenheit) or else, the results will end up being erroneous.

IBM is among a number of tech companies looking for ways to resolve these quantum hardware volatilities. On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the company announced that it has acquired the support of the United States' Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to bring quantum computing to the next level.

Universal Quantum Computer

The intelligence agency awarded IBM a five-year research grant to help scientists develop the building blocks for a universal quantum computer. The grant is funded under the IARPA's Logical Qubits (LogiQ) program spearheaded by David Moehring.

"We are at a turning point where quantum computing is moving beyond theory and experimentation to include engineering and applications," said IBM Research Director and Senior Vice President Arvind Krishna.

IBM has made some significant breakthroughs earlier this year. In order to detect quantum errors, scientists combined superconducting qubits in lattices on computer chips.

With the LogiQ program, the research team will encode superconducting qubits into a logical qubit that can perform error-free and reliable quantum computations. The logical qubit might serve as the foundation for more complex quantum computer systems.

"What we're doing with this program is aiming for larger system sizes which permit the ability to encode a logical qubit," said Jerry Chow, manager of IBM's Experimental Quantum Computing team.

The Field Of Quantum Computing

The leap in quantum computing can someday bring remarkable advancements in technology, experts said.

IBM scientists believe that quantum computing could possibly shorten the time to discovery for life-saving cancer drugs to a fraction of what it is today; accelerate machine learning; unlock new facets of artificial intelligence; enhance security and encryption systems and protect cloud computing systems from cyberattacks.

Krishna said quantum computing will potentially provide power and speed unachievable by even the most powerful computers existing today, eventually resulting to a full-scale impact on global business.

Collaboration between the government, the academia and the industry will help overcome the challenges that come with developing a universal quantum computer, he added.

Meanwhile, the IARPA and IBM have not yet disclosed how much funding is allocated to the new research program, but the field of quantum computing is indeed getting more exposure this year.

"It's becoming more of a competitive field now," added Chow. "It's a healthy type of competition that will push the entire field forward."

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