IBM Unveils Heron Quantum Chip, Plus Quantum System Two

IBM has unveiled two new quantum developments, with a new series of utility-scale processors housed within a modular quantum system.

At its annual IBM Quantum Summit in New York, Big Blue debuted ‘IBM Quantum Heron’ processor, as well as the IBM Quantum System Two, which it said is its first modular quantum computer and cornerstone of quantum-centric supercomputing architecture.

The first IBM Quantum System Two is located in Yorktown Heights, New York, and has begun operations with three IBM Heron processors, each of which offers 133 qubits processing power.

At IBM Quantum Summit 2023, IBM Quantum System Two was debuted as the company’s first modular quantum computer and cornerstone of IBM’s quantum-centric supercomputing architecture.
Image credit: Ryan Lavine for IBM

Heron processor

It should be remembered that it was back in November 2021 when IBM had claimed a breakthrough in quantum computing, with its Eagle processor that delivered “127 qubits on a single IBM quantum processor for the first time with breakthrough packaging technology.”

Then in November 2022 Big Blue had announced the Osprey, which was a 433-qubit system that was three times the number of qubits than its Eagle machine announced in 2021.

Osprey quantum processor. Image credit: IBM

Fast forward to 2023, and IBM earlier this year demonstrated how quantum systems can now serve as a scientific tool to explore utility-scale classes of problems in chemistry, physics, and materials beyond brute force classical simulation of quantum mechanics, utilising the 127-qubit ‘IBM Quantum Eagle’ processor.

“We are firmly within the era in which quantum computers are being used as a tool to explore new frontiers of science,” said Dario Gil, IBM SVP and Director of Research. “As we continue to advance how quantum systems can scale and deliver value through modular architectures, we will further increase the quality of a utility-scale quantum technology stack – and put it into the hands of our users and partners who will push the boundaries of more complex problems.”

Since that demonstration, IBM said that leading researchers, scientists, and engineers from many firms have expanded demonstrations of utility-scale quantum computing. This included experiments already running on the new IBM Quantum Heron 133-qubit processor, which IBM is making available for users today via the cloud.

Want to know more about practical quantum computers and what this could mean for your business? Click here to read Silicon UK’s ‘Qubits Are Coming‘

IBM Heron is the first in IBM’s new class of performant processors with significantly improved error rates, offering a five-times improvement over the previous best records set by IBM Eagle.

Additional IBM Heron processors will join IBM’s systems over the course of the next year.

IBM Quantum System Two

Meanwhile the IBM Quantum System Two has been mooted as the foundation of IBM’s next generation quantum computing system architecture.

IBM had in 2019 unveiled its IBM Quantum System One, the world’s first integrated quantum computing system.

Now the Quantum System Two combines scalable cryogenic infrastructure and runtime servers with modular qubit control electronics. IBM said the new system is a building block for it’s vision of quantum-centric supercomputing.

This architecture combines quantum communication and computation, assisted by classical computing resources, and utilised a middleware layer to appropriately integrate quantum and classical workflows.

As part of the newly expanded ten-year IBM Quantum Development Roadmap, IBM plans for this system to also house IBM’s future generations of quantum processors.

“Generative AI and quantum computing are both reaching an inflection point, presenting us with the opportunity to use the trusted foundation model framework of watsonx to simplify how quantum algorithms can be built for utility-scale exploration,” said Jay Gambetta, VP and IBM Fellow at IBM. “This is a significant step towards broadening how quantum computing can be accessed and put in the hands of users as an instrument for scientific exploration.”

Big Blue said with advanced hardware across IBM’s worldwide fleet of 100+ qubit systems, as well as easy-to-use software that IBM is debuting in Qiskit, users and computational scientists can now obtain reliable results from quantum systems as they map increasingly larger and more complex problems to quantum circuits.

Ongoing development

IBM has been developing its quantum computing capabilities for years now.

In 2016 it made quantum computing available to the public as a cloud-based on-demand service for use in quantum processing experiments.

Then in 2017 IBM became the first company to begin building a commercial programme around early-stage general-purpose quantum computers.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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