IBM develops 17 qubit processor

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IBM says it has built and tested its most powerful universal quantum computing processors, which will be used in IBM Q early-access commercial systems.

Two devices have been built. The first, a 16 qubit processor, will allow for more complex experimentation than the previously available five qubit device. IBM says this will be freely accessible for developers, programmers and researchers to run quantum algorithms and experiments. Meanwhile, a prototype commercial processor with 17 qubits is the most powerful quantum processor created by IBM. Engineered to be at least twice as powerful as what is available on the IBM Cloud, the processor will be the basis for the first IBM Q early-access commercial systems.

"The significant engineering improvements will allow IBM to scale future processors to include 50 or more qubits and demonstrate computational capabilities beyond today’s classical computing systems,” said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research and Hybrid Cloud. “These powerful upgrades to our quantum systems allow us to imagine new applications and new frontiers for discovery that are virtually unattainable using classical computers alone.”

Launched in March 2017, IBM Q is an initiative to build quantum computing systems for business and science users. So far, users have run more than 300,000 quantum experiments on the IBM Cloud.

IBM has also developed a new metric to characterise the computational power of quantum systems. Called Quantum Volume, the metric accounts for the number and quality of qubits, circuit connectivity and error rates of operations and IBM’s prototype is said to offer a significant improvement in Quantum Volume.