IBM breaks 100 qubits with its 127-qubit “Eagle” Quantum Processor

IBM, a leading American multinational technology corporation has announced its latest and world’s first quantum processor to feature more than 100 operational and connected qubits. The quantum processor features 127 qubits and is codenamed “Eagle.” 

“The arrival of the ‘Eagle’ processor is a major step towards the day when quantum computers can outperform classical computers at meaningful levels,”

Dr. Darío Gil, Senior Vice President, IBM and Director of Research.

The IBM’s Eagle will promote and accelerate quantum computing applications such as machine learning optimizations; materials and molecule modeling (essentially covering almost all elements of life, from molecular gastronomy to engineering materials and substrates); to drug and energy industry research fields. This new 127-qubit quantum processor will, for the first time, help to solve computational problems that conventional computers would ordinarily find challenging to solve.

“Quantum computing has the power to transform nearly every sector and help us tackle the biggest problems of our time. This is why IBM continues to rapidly innovate quantum hardware design, build ways for quantum and classical workloads to empower each other, and create a global ecosystem that is imperative to the adoption of quantum computing.”

Dr. Darío Gil, Senior Vice President, IBM and Director of Research.

The IBM’s Eagle processor is currently available as an exploratory device on the IBM cloud via its IBM Quantum Network initiative.

The design and development of the IBM’s Eagle follow the company’s existing technology used in the 65-qubit Hummingbird (2020) and the 27-qubit Falcon processor from 2019. It builds upon the already existing architecture of both processors to develop more complex quantum circuits than were ever possible.

Quantum circuits represent how qubits (an equivalent of the cores in classical computers) are arranged into quantum gates and measurements. More qubits(cores) means more ability to run complex programs (quantum circuit layers). IBM explained that describing the quantum state of the Eagle’s 127 qubits in a classical computer will require more bits than atoms exist in all 7.5 billion people on Earth.

The 127-Qubit Eagle Quantum Processor

“We had to combine and improve upon techniques developed in previous generations of IBM Quantum processors in order to develop a processor architecture including advanced 3D packaging techniques that we’re confident can form the backbone of processors up to and including our planned 1000+ qubit Condor processor. Eagle is based upon our heavy-hexagonal qubit layout as debuted with our Falcon processor, where qubits connect with either two or three neighbors as if sitting upon the edges and corners of tessellated hexagons. This particular connectivity decreased the potential for errors caused by interactions between neighboring qubits-providing significant boosts in yielding functional processors.”

The processor is diminutive in size but could revolutionize computing as we know it.

Increasing the number of qubits meant that engineers at IBM had to find a way to expand and maintain a balance between the three planes of quantum computing: scale, quality, and speed.

Scale refers to the number of qubits on a quantum processor and thus the complexity of available circuit layer operations. Quality is measured by quantum volume and refers to the number of qubits that can perform useful work. And finally, a quantum system’s speed is given by its standardized CLOPs score, which IBM proposed as a performance standard. 

To build the 127-qubit quantum processor, IBM built on the technology of its existing quantum processor, such as a qubit arrangement design to reduce error, and architecture to reduce the number of elements. In order to reduce the impact of qubit control operations, IBM researchers have spread out control wiring throughout several layers of the Eagle quantum processor whilst qubits remain on their own isolated layer – thus reducing destabilization of the delicate quantum states (the ones that any classical computer on Earth can’t describe). This, in turn, allows for an increase in the number of total qubits the system can contain.

IBM is gradually innovating towards quantum computing and is solely motivated by the goal of quantum advantage, to create a clear difference between classical computers and quantum computers. This is evident through the company’s contribution to the quantum field with its recent development of the CLOP, a benchmark unit for quantum performance, and the development of the 127-qubit quantum processor, which aligns with its roadmap to achieve Quantum Advantage by 2023. 

According to the roadmap, IBM hopes to triple the qubit capacity of its quantum processor by 2022 with the development of the 433-qubit quantum processor codenamed “Osprey.” In 2023, IBM is also expected to develop another quantum processor codenamed “Condor” with a massive 1,121 qubits, increasing qubits availability by a factor of ten in just two years.

IBM Quantum System Two

Launched in 2019, the IBM Quantum System One is the world’s first integrated quantum computing system. The IBM Quantum System One has been successfully deployed in the United States,  Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Germany’s leading scientific research institution and at the University of Tokyo, in Japan, also partnering with Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea to deploy the first IBM quantum system in the country.

To meet the growing infrastructure demands of its fast scaling processors, IBM has announced the development of the IBM Quantum System Two, an advanced version of the IBM Quantum System One. The system is expected to house the forthcoming 433-qubit Osprey quantum processor and the 2023-expected 1,121-qubit Condor.

Quantum System Two will bring revolutionary problem-solving changes across industries and sectors in line with IBM’s Quantum Advantage goal. As IBM progresses and builds processors with larger qubits, there is a need for infrastructures that will make scaling and deployments easy, which is the aim of the IBM Quantum System Two. These infrastructures include control electronics, which allow users to manipulate the qubits, and cryogenic cooling, which keeps the qubits at a temperature low enough for their quantum properties to manifest.

IBM further clarified its plans for Quantum System Two:

“With this system, we’re giving flexibility to our hardware to continue to increase the scale of our chips. The team is taking a holistic systems approach to understand the necessary resources to support not only our upcoming Osprey and Condor processors, but also quantum processors into the future as we continue to progress along our hardware roadmap. System Two incorporates a new generation of scalable qubit control electronics together with higher-density cryogenic components and cabling. Furthermore, we are working jointly with Bluefors Cryogenics to re-imagine the cryogenic platform. Bluefors’ new Kide Cryogenic platform and its hexagonal footprint optimizes space inside of the fridge in order to accommodate increased support hardware required by larger processors, while ensuring that engineers can easily access and service the hardware inside the fridge. “

The new IBM Quantum System Two also brings the possibility of a larger shared cryogenic workspace and multiple linking of quantum processors. The system is prototype is expected to be operational by 2023.

IBM System Two

Read More