Or at least it can’t solve them alone. The idea is that the 100,000 qubits will work alongside the best “classical” supercomputers to achieve new breakthroughs in drug discovery, fertilizer production, battery performance, and a host of other applications. “I call this quantum-centric supercomputing,” IBM’s VP of quantum, Jay Gambetta, told MIT Technology Review in an in-person interview in London last week. […] IBM has already done proof-of-principle experiments (PDF) showing that integrated circuits based on “complementary metal oxide semiconductor” (CMOS) technology can be installed next to the cold qubits to control them with just tens of milliwatts. Beyond that, he admits, the technology required for quantum-centric supercomputing does not yet exist: that is why academic research is a vital part of the project.
The qubits will exist on a type of modular chip that is only just beginning to take shape in IBM labs. Modularity, essential when it will be impossible to put enough qubits on a single chip, requires interconnects that transfer quantum information between modules. IBM’s “Kookaburra,” a 1,386-qubit multichip processor with a quantum communication link, is under development and slated for release in 2025. Other necessary innovations are where the universities come in. Researchers at Tokyo and Chicago have already made significant strides in areas such as components and communication innovations that could be vital parts of the final product, Gambetta says. He thinks there will likely be many more industry-academic collaborations to come over the next decade. “We have to help the universities do what they do best,” he says.
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