IBM leaps past another milestone in quantum computing

IBM has unveiled Osprey, a matchbox-sized chip that is now its most powerful quantum processor to date.

Demonstrated at IBM’s annual Quantum Summit in New York, the Osprey chip has 433 qubits, which is more than three times as many as the 127-qubit Eagle processor the company presented last year.

It is similar to Eagle in its multi-level wiring but has added filtering integration ro reduce noise and improve stability, IBM said. Osprey’s computational power goes “well beyond” any classical computer, according to the company.

“For reference, the number of classical bits that would be necessary to represent a state on the IBM Osprey processor far exceeds the total number of atoms in the known universe,” it said in a statement.

IBM executives holding Osprey. Image by IBM

Qubits, or quantum bits, indicate the power of the quantum computer, but competing methods exist to assess it. Canadian company D-Wave claims to have built a 5760-qubit machine based on an approach known as quantum annealing.

It is unclear which method will prevail but IBM is placing its bets on circuit-based quantum processors, where the company is a global leader. It said it expected next year to be “a major inflection point” as it prepares to unveil a quantum-centric supercomputing system.

Called Quantum System Two, it would be the world’s first modular and “100% customizable” quantum computing system, the company said. IBM said the combined power of three interlinked systems would reach 16,632 qubits, outperforming any existing quantum system today.

IBM expects quantum computers to tackle “previously unsolvable” problems. Advanced quantum computers could offer exact solutions to many pressing problems, including climate change, and breakthroughs like teleportation.

Reaching far beyond what traditional computers are capable of, some experts also see the technology as an existential threat that could break cryptographic protections that underpin the world’s digital security today.

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