Late last year, IBM took the record for the largest quantum computing system with a processor that contained 433 quantum bits, or qubits, the fundamental building blocks of quantum information processing. Now, the company has set its sights on a much bigger target: a 100,000-qubit machine that it aims to build within 10 years.
IBM made the announcement on May 22 at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. The company will partner with the University of Tokyo and the University of Chicago in a $100 million dollar initiative to push quantum computing into the realm of full-scale operation, where the technology could potentially tackle pressing problems that no standard supercomputer can solve.
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.
Quantum computing holds and processes information in a way that exploits the unique properties of fundamental particles: electrons, atoms, and small molecules can exist in multiple energy states at once, a phenomenon known as superposition, and the states of particles can become linked, or entangled, with one another. This means that information can be encoded and manipulated in novel ways, opening the door to a swath of classically impossible computing tasks.