At the IEEE Industry Summit on the Future of Computing in Washington D.C. on Friday, IBM announced the development of a quantum computer capable of handling 50 qubits (quantum bits). This breakthrough puts IBM on the cutting edge of quantum computing research, as a 50-qubit machine is so far the largest and most powerful quantum computer ever built.
Seen by experts as the future of advanced computing, a quantum computer performs rather differently compared to traditional computers. Instead of processing information using binary bits of 0s and 1s, a quantum computer uses qubits, which can simultaneously be a 0 and/or a 1. This is made possible by the quantum effects known as entanglement and superposition.
Aside from their 50-qubit machine, IBM also has a 20-qubit quantum computing system that’s accessible to third-party users through their cloud computing platform. IBM managed to maintain the quantum state for both systems for a total of 90 microseconds. That may seem short — because it is — but it’s already a record feat in this growing industry, where one of the biggest challenges is sustaining the life of qubits.
“We are really proud of this; it’s a big frickin’ deal,” IBM’s director for AI and quantum computing Dario Gil, who made Friday’s announcement, told the MIT Technology Review.