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What just happened? IBM is one step closer to realizing a quantum computer with true utility that can outperform classical computers in certain workloads. The technology giant recently used its Quantum "Eagle" processor with 127 superconducting qubits to create entangled states that "simulate the dynamics of spins in a model of material and accurately predict properties such as its magnetization."
Quantum computers are thought to possess tremendous computational potential that could be used to solve problems that classical computers simply aren't capable of. Unlocking that performance has proven difficult, however, due to the finicky nature of quantum systems.
As IBM highlights, such systems are inherently noisy and generate lots of errors which hampers performance. Recent advancements in error correction could improve the situation, and IBM wanted to put them to the test.
The team conducted increasingly complex tests and compared results with supercomputers located at Purdue University and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. In each test, the quantum chip spit out accurate results. As the difficulty ramped up, Eagle dished out answers that were more accurate than the classical approximation methods.
"This is the first time we have seen quantum computers accurately model a physical system in nature beyond leading classical approaches," said Darío Gil, SVP and director of IBM Research. Andrew Eddins, an IBM Quantum scientist, said the level of agreement between the quantum and classical computations on such large problems was surprising.
The test suggests that noisy quantum computers could provide utility sooner than anticipated. Big Blue posits quantum computers will one day be useful in tackling a variety of challenges including building more efficient batteries, creating new medicines, and even designing better fertilizer.
IBM introduced its Eagle quantum processor in late 2021 and initially opened it up to Quantum Network members. At the time, IBM said a classical computer would need the same number of bits as atoms of all humans on Earth to match the performance of Eagle.
"Quantum computing has the power to transform nearly every sector and help us tackle the biggest problems of our time," Gil said in 2021.
IBM has published its findings in the journal Nature in a paper titled, "Evidence for the utility of quantum computing before fault tolerance."
The tech titan also announced that over the next year, all of its Quantum systems running both in the cloud and on-site at partner locations will be upgraded to a minimum of 127 qubits.