IBM debuts next-generation quantum processor

3 mins read

At its annual Quantum Summit in New York, IBM has unveiled the ‘IBM Quantum Heron,’ the first in a new series of utility scale quantum processors.

The processors have an architecture that’s been engineered over the past four years and IBM claims that they can deliver the highest performance metrics and lowest error rates of any IBM Quantum processor to date.  

IBM also unveiled IBM Quantum System Two, its first modular quantum computer and the cornerstone of IBM’s quantum-centric supercomputing architecture. The first IBM Quantum System Two, located in Yorktown Heights, New York, has begun operations with three IBM Heron processors and supporting control electronics.

With this foundation now in place, along with other breakthroughs in quantum hardware, theory, and software, IBM is extending its Quantum Development Roadmap to 2033 with new targets to significantly advance the quality of gate operations – the aim being to increase the size of quantum circuits able to be run and to realise the full potential of quantum computing at scale.  

“We are firmly within the era in which quantum computers are being used as a tool to explore new frontiers of science,” said Dario Gil, IBM SVP and Director of Research. “As we continue to advance how quantum systems can scale and deliver value through modular architectures, we will further increase the quality of a utility-scale quantum technology stack – and put it into the hands of our users and partners who will push the boundaries of more complex problems.”  

As demonstrated by IBM earlier this year on a 127-qubit ‘IBM Quantum Eagle’ processor, IBM Quantum systems can now serve as a scientific tool to explore utility-scale classes of problems in chemistry, physics, and materials beyond brute force classical simulation of quantum mechanics.  

Since that demonstration, leading researchers, scientists, and engineers from organisations, as well as IBM, have expanded demonstrations of utility-scale quantum computing to confirm its value in exploring uncharted computational territory.  

This includes experiments already running on the new IBM Quantum Heron 133-qubit processor, which IBM is now making available for users via the cloud. The IBM Heron is the first in IBM’s new class of performant processors with significantly improved error rates, offering a five-times improvement over the previous best records set by the IBM Eagle. Additional IBM Heron processors will be rolled out over the course of the next year.     

IBM Quantum System Two is the foundation of IBM’s next generation quantum computing system architecture and combines scalable cryogenic infrastructure and classical runtime servers with modular qubit control electronics.

The new system is a building block for IBM’s vision of quantum-centric supercomputing and this architecture combines quantum communication and computation, assisted by classical computing resources, and leverages a middleware layer to appropriately integrate quantum and classical workflows. 

As part of the newly expanded ten-year IBM Quantum Development Roadmap, IBM plans for this system to also house IBM’s future generations of quantum processors. Also, as part of this roadmap, these future processors are intended to gradually improve the quality of operations they can run to significantly extend the complexity and size of workloads they are capable of handling.

IBM has also released details of a new generation of its software stack, within which Qiskit 1.0 will be a pivot point defined by stability and speed.

IBM also unveiled Qiskit Patterns which will serve as a mechanism to allow quantum developers to more easily create code. It is based in a collection of tools to simply map classical problems, optimise them to quantum circuits using Qiskit, executing those circuits using Qiskit Runtime, and then postprocess the results.

Qiskit Patterns, combined with Quantum Serverless, will enable users to build, deploy, and execute workflows integrating classical and quantum computation in different environments, such as cloud or on-prem scenarios. 

IBM is also driving the use of generative AI for quantum code programming through watsonx, its enterprise AI platform. IBM will integrate generative AI available through watsonx to help automate the development of quantum code for Qiskit. This will be achieved through the finetuning of the IBM Granite model series. 

 “Generative AI and quantum computing are both reaching an inflection point, presenting us with the opportunity to use the trusted foundation model framework of watsonx to simplify how quantum algorithms can be built for utility-scale exploration,” said Jay Gambetta, Vice President and IBM Fellow at IBM. “This is a significant step towards broadening how quantum computing can be accessed and put in the hands of users as an instrument for scientific exploration.”

These developments will enable users and computational scientists to obtain increasingly reliable results from quantum systems as they map larger and more complex problems to quantum circuits.