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IBM opens new centre to house 53-qubit quantum computer

IBM hopes its cloud-connected quantum computer in New York will encourage the development of quantum-optimised software

IBM has opened a quantum computation centre in New York for commercial and research activities. The centre provides cloud-accessible hardware and open source software for research and the exploration of commercial use cases.

The site includes five 20-qubit systems, but within a month, IBM said the site will provide 14 systems, including a new 53-qubit quantum computer. IBM claimed this new quantum computer represents the single largest universal approximate quantum computing system made available for external access in the industry to date.

IBM has a quantum computing programme to encourage the development of new quantum applications. It said this supports deep partnerships with nearly 80 commercial clients, academic institutions and research laboratories.

The programme aims to explore and develop quantum computing algorithms for real business use cases. According to IBM, advances in quantum computing could open the door to future scientific discoveries, such as new medicines and materials, vast improvements in the optimisation of supply chains and new ways to model financial data to make better investments.

Among the quantum projects IBM has undertaken through this programme includes a collaboration with JP Morgan on option pricing. The work involved building a methodology to price financial options and portfolios of such options on a gate-based quantum computer.

IBM claimed that, compared with classical Monte Carlo methods, the algorithm ran significantly faster on a quantum computer system. “While classical computers need millions of samples, our methodology requires only a few thousands of samples to achieve the same result. This may allow financial analysts to perform the option pricing and risk analysis in near real time.” The implementation is available as open source in Qiskit Finance.

IBM said it has also collaborated with Mitsubishi Chemical and Keio University to simulate the initial steps of the reaction mechanism between lithium and oxygen in lithium-air batteries.

Read more about quantum computing

  • Working with MIT and Oxford university, researchers at IBM have looked at how quantum computing can accelerate data classification in machine learning.
  • As quantum computing gains momentum with practical quantum computers due to come online as early as next year, concerns about post-quantum cryptography are pushed to the forefront.

Available on arXiv, Computational Investigations of the Lithium Superoxide Dimer Rearrangement on Noisy Quantum Devices is a step in modelling the entire lithium-oxygen reaction on a quantum computer. IBM said better understanding this interaction could lead to more efficient batteries for mobile devices or automotive vehicles. 

Dario Gil, IBM Research director, said: “Our global momentum has been extraordinary since we put the very quantum computer on the cloud in 2016, with the goal moving quantum computing beyond isolated lab experiments that only a handful organisations could do, into the hands tens thousands users.

The single goal this passionate community is to achieve what we call Quantum Advantage, producing powerful quantum systems that can ultimately solve real problems facing our clients that are not viable using today’s classical methods alone, and by making even more IBM quantum systems available, we believe that goal is achievable.”

Experts believe the practical application of quantum computing is still years away, but this has not stopped many organisations from experimenting with quantum computing techniques. Tech leaders believe quantum computing will deliver a competitive edge.

For instance, at 2017’s CeBit in Hanover, Volkswagen Group discussed how it was planning to use quantum computers to bolster its digital competency programme in a bid to create an innovative application that cannot be programmed traditionally.

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