IBM taps European design for first commercial quantum computer

IBM Q System One display

IBM Unveils Its First-Ever Standalone Quantum Computer Designed for Businesses

The company also announced plans to open its first Q Quantum Computation Center for commercial clients in Poughkeepsie, New York in 2019.

Drawing inspiration from classical computers which are known to combine multiple components into an integrated architecture optimized to work together, IBM chose to draw inspiration and apply it to quantum computing with the first integrated universal quantum computing system. IBM's Q System One has been designed with these issues in mind, the company said. Quantum computing can potentially provide us with capabilities to simulate nature and chemistry that we've never had before.

The IBM Q Network is the world's first community of Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions and research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for business and science. As the Q system has 20 qubits, it is still short of the 50 qubits that most researchers believe will be required real-life applications.

The visual aspect of the System One was envisioned by Map Project Office, an industrial design company that works with Honda and by Universal Design Studio, an interior design and architecture company based in London. Quantum computers are based on the laws of quantum mechanics in that they take advantage of the behavior of atoms and subatomic particles to address hard computational challenges, such as those involved with exponential scaling.

Quantum computers have the ability to revolutionize medical development, artificial intelligence, cryptography, financial models and climate simulations, and IBM imagines a world where they operate perfectly with traditional PCs and server farms. The complexity of quantum computing may soon become too complicated for classical computers to handle.

In 2016 IBM presented a quantum computing system with five qubits that it had available for online experimentation, but the new qubits system is the first to be created for purely commercial purposes.

IBM explained that "qubits quickly lose their special quantum properties, typically within 100 microseconds (for state-of-the-art superconducting qubits), due in part to the interconnected machinery's ambient noise of vibrations, temperature fluctuations, and electromagnetic waves". This is essential for the quantum chip - which must be stored at about 10 millikelvin, a fraction above absolute zero temperature - and for the additional electronics included in the Q System One.

The resulting design is a 3m by 3m case of 1cm thick borosilicate glass forming a sealed, airtight enclosure. Independent aluminum and steel frames both unify and decouple the system's cryostat, control electronics and outside casing to avoid the vibration that can affect the qubits.

The company's Qiskit open-source quantum software development kit has been downloaded more than 140,000 times, and the IBM Q Network includes recent members such as Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley national labs, CERN and ExxonMobil. The IT giant also sees future where it will be selling such systems in the form of renting access to the hardware over the internet instead of shipping the quantum computer itself.

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