Biggish Blue has managed to build a 433-quantum bit, or qubits machine so far, making it the world leader. IBM announced the move at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. The company will partner with the University of Tokyo and the University of Chicago in a 100-million-dollar initiative to push quantum computing into full-scale operation, where the technology could tackle pressing problems that no standard supercomputer can solve.
The 100,000 qubits machine will work alongside supercomputers to achieve breakthroughs in drug discovery, fertiliser production, battery performance, and other applications. It is unclear were potentially dead or alive cats will be involved.
IBM's VP of quantum, Jay Gambetta, told MIT Technology Review that IBM has already done proof-of-principle experiments (PDF) showing that integrated circuits based on "complementary metal oxide semiconductor" (CMOS) technology can be installed next to the cold qubits to control them with just tens of milliwatts.
However, beyond that, he admits, the technology required for quantum-centric supercomputing does not yet exist: that is why academic research is a vital part of the project.
The qubits will exist on a modular chip that is only beginning to take shape in IBM labs.
Modularity, essential when it will be impossible to put enough qubits on a single chip, requires interconnects that transfer quantum information between modules.
IBM's "Kookaburra," a 1,386-qubit multichip processor with a quantum communication link, is under development and slated for release in 2025. Gambetta says that boffins at Tokyo and Chicago have already made significant strides in components and communication innovations that could be vital parts of the final product.
Gambetta thinks there will likely be many more industry-academic partnerships over the next decade.