Today’s quantum computers are no more than experiments. Researchers can string together a handful of quantum bits — seemingly magical bits that store a “1″ and “0″ at the same time — and these ephemeral creations can run relatively simple algorithms. But new research from IBM indicates that far more complex quantum computers aren’t that far away.
On Tuesday, IBM revealed that physicists at its Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York have made significant advances in the creation of “superconducting qubits,” one of several research fields that could eventually lead to a quantum computer that’s exponentially more powerful than today’s classical computers.
According to Matthias Steffen — who oversees Big Blue’s experimental quantum computing group — he and his team have improved the performance of superconducting qubits by a factor of two to four. “What this means is that we can really start thinking about much larger systems,” he tells Wired, “putting several of these quantum bits together and performing much larger error correction.”
David DiVincenzo — a professor at the Jülich Research Center‘s Institute of Quantum Information in western Germany and a former colleague if Steffen — agrees that IBM’s new research is more than just a milestone. “These metrics have now — for the first time — attained the levels necessary to begin scaling up quantum computation to greater complexity,” he says. “I think that we will soon see whole quantum computing modules, rather than just two- or three-qubit experiments.”