At the IBM Quantum Summit 2021, IBM announced their new 127-quantum bit (qubit) ‘Eagle’ processor, which is the company’s annual event to highlight achievements in quantum hardware, software, and the quantum ecosystem’s growth.
The ‘Eagle’ processor is a major step forward in realizing the huge computation potential of quantum-based technologies. It marks a turning point in hardware development when quantum circuits can no longer be accurately replicated on a traditional computer. IBM also gave a sneak peek at its plans for IBM Quantum System Two, the next generation of quantum systems.
Quantum computing takes advantage of the basic quantum nature of matter at the subatomic level to provide massively expanded computer power. The quantum circuit, which consists of an organization of qubits into quantum gates and measurements, is the fundamental processing unit of quantum computing. The quantum circuits that a quantum processor can execute are more complicated and valuable the more qubits it has.
Scale, Quality, and Speed are three performance metrics that IBM uses to track advances in quantum computing hardware. The number of qubits on a quantum processor defines the size of the quantum circuit that can be executed. Quantum Volume is a metric that defines very well how quantum circuits work on a genuine quantum device.
CLOPS (Circuit Layer Operations Per Second) is a metric created by IBM in November 2021 that quantifies the possibility of executing real-world operations involving a large number of quantum circuits.
The ‘Eagle’ is IBM’s first quantum processor with more than 100 operational and connected qubits, which is designed and installed. It comes after IBM’s 65-qubit ‘Hummingbird’ CPU, which was announced in 2020, and the 27-qubit ‘Falcon’ processor, which was announced in 2019.
IBM researchers used improvements pioneered within its current quantum processors, such as a qubit arrangement design to eliminate errors and architecture to reduce the number of required components, to make this breakthrough.
The innovative technologies used in Eagle allow for a considerable increase in qubits by placing control circuitry on many physical levels within the CPU while retaining the qubits on a single layer.
Even before conducting experiments and running applications, such as optimizing machine learning or modeling new molecules and materials for use in areas ranging from the energy industry to the drug discovery process, the increased qubit count will allow users to explore problems at a new level of complexity.
The IBM quantum processor ‘Eagle’ is the first of its kind, with a scale that a classical computer can’t properly simulate. The amount of classical bits required to express a state on the 127-qubit processor, in fact, exceeds the total number of atoms in the world’s 7.5 billion humans.
“The arrival of the ‘Eagle’ processor is a major step towards the day when quantum computers can outperform classical computers for useful applications,” said Dr. Darío Gil, Senior Vice President, IBM and Director of Research. “Quantum computing has the power to transform nearly every sector and help us tackle the biggest problems of our time. This is why IBM continues to rapidly innovate quantum hardware and software design, building ways for quantum and classical workloads to empower each other, and create a global ecosystem that is imperative to the growth of a quantum industry.”
The first ‘Eagle’ processor is available as an exploratory device on the IBM Cloud to select members of the IBM Quantum Network.
The world’s first integrated quantum computing system, IBM Quantum System One, was unveiled by IBM in 2019. Since then, IBM has used these systems to power its cloud-based IBM Quantum services in the United States, as well as in Germany for Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Germany’s largest scientific research group, in Japan for the University of Tokyo, and in the United States for Cleveland Clinic.
In addition, IBM announced a new collaboration with Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, to implement the country’s first IBM quantum system.
IBM’s processors are projected to mature beyond the infrastructure of IBM Quantum System One as the company continues to scale its processors. As a result, IBM is thrilled to reveal IBM Quantum System Two, a vision for the future of quantum computing platforms. The IBM Quantum System Two is compatible with IBM’s upcoming 433-qubit and 1,121-qubit processors.
“IBM Quantum System Two offers a glimpse into the future quantum computing datacenter, where modularity and flexibility of system infrastructure will be key towards continued scaling,” said Dr. Jay Gambetta, IBM Fellow and VP of Quantum Computing. “System Two draws on IBM’s long heritage in both quantum and classical computing, bringing in new innovations at every level of the technology stack.”
The principle of modularity is at the heart of IBM Quantum System Two. As IBM advances its hardware roadmap and develops processors with higher qubit counts, it is critical that the control hardware has the flexibility and resources to scale. Control electronics, which allow users to manipulate the qubits, and cryogenic cooling, which keeps the qubits at a low enough temperature for their quantum features to manifest, are two of these resources.
The architecture of IBM Quantum System Two will include a new generation of scalable qubit control circuits, as well as higher-density cryogenic components and cabling. Furthermore, IBM Quantum System Two introduces a new cryogenic platform, developed in collaboration with Bluefors, that features a novel, innovative structural design that maximizes space for the support hardware required by larger processors while allowing engineers easy access to and service the hardware.
Furthermore, the new design opens up the prospect of providing a wider shared cryogenic work-space, potentially allowing numerous quantum processors to be linked. In 2023, the prototype IBM Quantum System Two is projected to be operational.