IBM Quantum unveils a 127-qubit quantum processor

The Eagle will allow users to solve for a new level of complexity when undertaking experiments and running applications, the company said.

Vibrant glowing qubit

Image: sakkmesterke, Getty Images/iStockphoto

IBM on Tuesday said it has reached 127-quantum bits (qubits) with its new Eagle processor–its first quantum processor to contain more than 100 qubits, the company said. IBM is also previewing plans for the IBM Quantum System Two, a new generation of quantum systems designed to scale beyond 1,000 qubits.   

The announcements were made at the company's IBM Quantum Summit 2021.

Eagle is the first quantum processor since IBM's 65-qubit Hummingbird processor unveiled in 2020 and the 27-qubit Falcon processor unveiled in 2019. To achieve this scale, IBM researchers built upon work within its existing quantum processors such as a qubit arrangement design to reduce errors and an architecture to reduce the number of necessary components.

"Constructing a processor that breaks the hundred-qubit barrier wasn't something we could do overnight,'' said the authors of a blog on the Eagle processor. "Scientists for decades have theorized that a computer based on the same mathematics followed by subatomic particles—quantum mechanics—could outperform classical computers at simulating nature. However, constructing one of these devices is an enormous challenge."

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The authors said qubits can forget their quantum information even with the slightest nudge from the outside world.

IBM said the new techniques leveraged within Eagle place control components on multiple physical levels within the processor while keeping the qubits on a single layer, enabling a significant increase in qubits that can be used for calculations, according to IBM.  

The increased qubit count will allow users to solve for a new level of complexity when undertaking experiments and running applications, such as mapping the most efficient routes for global maritime trade or modeling new molecules as part of the drug discovery process.

"The arrival of the Eagle processor is a major step towards the day when quantum computers can outperform classical computers at meaningful levels," said Dario Gil, senior vice president, IBM and director of IBM Research, in a statement. "Quantum computing has the power to transform nearly every sector and help us tackle the biggest problems of our time."

The Eagle processor will be made available to select members of the IBM Quantum Network starting in December.  

Quantum System Two is previewed

Also at the IBM Quantum Summit, the company is previewing the IBM Quantum System Two, the next generation of the IBM Quantum systems, which is designed to work with processors of 1,000+ qubits and beyond.

Central to the IBM Quantum System Two will be modularity, the authors said. Superconducting quantum processors must be cooled to a temperature colder than that of outer space for the quantum nature of the qubits to manifest. The IBM System Two will be able to house and cool multiple processors for use in a single quantum system, according to the company.

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"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 with our hardware roadmap,'' the authors said. "System Two incorporates a new generation of scalable qubit control electronics together with higher-density cryogenic components and cabling."

This will give users the ability to manipulate and test individual portions of the overall quantum system while leaving others unaffected, IBM said.  

The IBM System Two is also designed so that multiple systems can be connected and run in parallel for significant computational power.

The first IBM System Two is expected to be up and running in 2023 at IBM Research headquarters in Yorktown Heights, New York, the company said.

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