On Monday, International Business Machines (IBM.N) announced that it had created a new quantum computing chip that its executives believe will allow quantum systems to begin outperforming classical computers at some tasks within the next two years.
IBM said that its “Eagle” computing chip has 127 so-called “qubits,” representing information in the quantum form. Classical computers work using “bits” that must be either a 1 or 0, but qubits can be both a one and a 0 simultaneously.
This fact may one day make quantum computers much faster than their classical counterparts, but qubits are extremely difficult to build and require massive cryogenic refrigerators to function properly. While Apple Inc.’s (AAPL.O) latest M1 Max chip has 57 billion transistors – a rough proxy for bits – IBM claims its new Eagle chip is the first to have more than 100 qubits.
However, IBM stated that when combined with other advances in the quantum computer’s refrigeration jobs and control systems, new techniques learned while building the chip, which is manufactured at its facilities in New York state, will eventually produce more qubits. The company announced Monday that an “Osprey” chip with 433 qubits and a “Condor” chip with 1,121 qubits will be available in 2022.
The company claims that at that point, it will be close to achieving “quantum advantage,” or the point at which quantum computers can outperform classical computers.
Daro Gil, a senior vice president at IBM and the head of his research division, stated that this does not imply that quantum computers will completely replace traditional ones. Instead, IBM envisions a world in which some components of a computing application run on traditional chips while others run on quantum chips, depending on what works best for each task. “We believe that we will be able to reach a demonstration of quantum advantage – something that can have practical value – within the next couple of years. That is our quest,” Gil said.