IBM recently unveiled its latest quantum processor, the Osprey. The processor offers a total of 433 qubits and takes a new step in quantum computing, according to Big Blue.
The new 433 qubit Osprey processor is the successor to the 127 qubit Eagle processor released in 2021. Like its predecessor, the Osprey quantum processor is based on so-called ‘superconducting transmon’ technology. This technology uses conductive materials that transfer electricity from one point to another without generating heat or losing energy.
Transmon qubit technology was invented by Yale University in 2007 to protect quantum processors from noise or interference. This interference can cause problems in the processors’ circuitry, making it more difficult to perform calculations.
Update qubit control system
In addition to the development of the Osprey quantum processor, IBM has also given a major update to the so-called ‘qubit control system’. Qubits generated by the Osprey quantum processor do not perform calculations independently. This is what the qubit control system does. The system uses microwave pulses to determine the configuration of the qubits.
Previously, this qubit control system was based on a programmable chip (FGPA). This has now been replaced by Big Blue for an application specific integrated circuit. This chip can be further customized to improve processing speed.
The new chip instructs the control system via special wires how the Osprey qubits should perform computational traffic to the qubits. IBM would have revised the design of this wire to take up 70 percent less space and be able to produce at a lower cost.
Multi-layer wiring design
When the signals from the control system reach the Osprey processor, each signal is routed to the appropriate qubit. This is done by a so-called multi-layer wiring system, which is integrated directly into the processor.
This wiring system has been around since the Eagle quantum processor and consists of three layers of metal stacked on top of each other in the processor. This design should limit interference and thereby reduce the risk or errors in the qubits.
Software and new homes
In addition to technical issues, with the release of the new quantum processor, IBM has also released a new release of its supporting software platform Qiskit Runtime. This software platform creates the algorithms that can run on Big Blue’s quantum processors. In the latest version, there are now also algorithms that solve errors. This allows developers to better control the performance of qubits for better computational security.
IBM also presented a new housing for the quantum processors; IBM Quantum System Two. This housing, for example, which must ensure that the processors are in an environment around the absolute zero point of -273 Celsius, can accommodate several processors up to a maximum of 4,158 qubits in total. The housing can also house the necessary qubit control systems. The IBM Quantum System Two will be available next year.
Roadmap for the coming years
With the arrival of the IBM Osprey quantum processor, Big Blue says it is taking a new step toward actually using quantum processors to solve previously intractable problems. In the coming years, the tech giant will therefore continue to invest massively in the further development of its quantum processors.
The roadmap shows that IBM plans to introduce the Condor quantum processor next year with 1,121 qubits, or twice as many as the currently introduced processor. In the coming years, the tech giant plans to launch interconnected quantum processors or “multiprocessors” to optimize performance. The first of these multiprocessors, the ‘Flamingo’ processor, will be presented in 2024. The second, ‘Kookaburra’, in 2025. The latter multiprocessor should then provide 4,158 qubits. There are also already plans for more of these multiprocessors.
Tip: IBM enters quantum roadmap with 127 qubit Eagle processor