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IBM quantum computers - for everyone via the cloud

IBM Research makes a quantum computer publicly available for the first time. From now on, anyone interested can access a quantum processor consisting of five quantum bits (qubits) and carry out experiments using a desktop computer or mobile device via the IBM Cloud. The free access is intended to accelerate innovations towards the practical use of IBM quantum computers.

For IBM, quantum technology is the future of information processing. It has the potential to solve certain problems in science and industry, such as pharmaceutical research or materials science, that were previously unsolvable even for supercomputers.

The IBM Quantum Experience Platform offers users various opportunities to try out and discover quantum computing: You can test various algorithms and carry out experiments on the quantum processor, work with the individual qubits and learn more about what quantum computers could do in online seminars and simulations .

IBM quantum computers: programmed to compute any task

The quantum processor provided by IBM is located at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, the headquarters of IBM research in Yorktown Heights, New York, USA. It consists of five superconducting qubits on a silicon chip. The qubits were manufactured using a standard silicon technology process. The architecture used by IBM Research allows scaling to larger quantum systems and is the leading approach to building a universal quantum computer. A universal quantum computer can be programmed to compute any task and can be exponentially faster than classic computers for some important applications in science and industry.

The enormous potential of the IBM quantum computer

There are no such computers today, but IBM expects medium-sized systems with 50 to 100 qubits to be realized in the next decade. A quantum computer with just 50 qubits could not be emulated by any supercomputer on the current TOP 500 list. This impressively shows the enormous potential of this technology. Scientists are therefore working flat out to make this computing power usable. Applications in optimization problems and chemical research are expected to be the first that can be massively accelerated by quantum computers.

“Quantum computers differ significantly from today's computers - not just in their components, but especially in what they can do. Quantum technology is becoming a reality and with it the possibilities of computer-aided calculations are being expanded far beyond what is imaginable today, "says Arvind Krishna, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research. “This is the hour of birth of cloud-based quantum computing. By giving the public access to IBM's experimental quantum system, it will be easier for researchers and the scientific community to innovate in quantum technology and discover new fields of application. "

IBM quantum computers: Quantum Experience

Quantum information is very sensitive because qubits lose their information when they interact with matter and electromagnetic radiation. To avoid this, quantum processors are located in a "cryogenic refrigerator". The IBM scientists only made some important development progress in the last year, both in the manufacture of the qubits and in their electronic control, in order to make a processor with five qubits available to the users of the IBM Quantum Experience platform for the first time.

In conjunction with the software expertise of IBM Research, the researchers developed a dynamic user interface that allows users to easily access the quantum computer via the cloud. For the team, this is just the beginning of a new community of users looking at quantum computers and their capabilities. In the future, users will have the opportunity to contribute their results to this community on the IBM Quantum Experience platform. The IBM scientists will also publish their latest research advances there in the future.

IBM plans to gradually add more qubits and new generations of processors to IBM Quantum Experience so that users can gain new experiences and help discover new applications for this technology. With open access to the IBM Quantum Experience, companies and organizations can now begin to unlock the potential of this technology for themselves. Universities also have the opportunity to expand their teaching program in quantum computing and related areas using specific application examples. Students are given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with promising new career paths in quantum technology.

What is quantum computing anyway?

The most basic information a computer understands is the bit. Comparable to a light switch that can be switched on and off, a bit has the two states “1” or “0”. A quantum bit can also assume “1” or “0”, but also both states at the same time. This is called superposition or, for example, “0 + 1”. The sign of this superposition is important because the two states "0" and "1" have a phase relationship with one another. This superposition property enables the quantum computer to find the right solution among millions of possibilities much faster than conventional computers. Because quantum information is so sensitive, correcting quantum errors is an essential requirement for building a universal quantum computer.

Last year, IBM scientists presented a circuit made up of four quantum bits arranged in a square grid for the first time. This corresponds to the smallest complete unit of a scalable quantum computer with quantum error correction. With this arrangement, the two types of quantum errors (so-called bit-flip and phase-flip errors) that can occur in every quantum computer can be detected and measured.

By combining five qubits in the lattice structure, the scientists have now taken another important step towards the universal quantum computer. The arrangement with a total of five qubits allows the parity (binary checksum) of four neighboring qubits to be measured. This is one of the most important logical operations in quantum computers and the basis of many quantum error correction protocols.

IBM Research Frontiers Institute

The quantum computer platform IBM Quantum Experience is a core initiative of the newly founded IBM Research Frontiers Institute. The Frontiers Institute is a consortium for the development of breakthrough IT and computing technologies to drive groundbreaking innovations. Companies from a wide variety of industries can use IBM's research expertise and the latest infrastructure to explore the impact quantum computers will have on their organization and their business area. Founding members of the Frontiers Institute are Samsung, JSR and Honda.

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