IBM is building the first universal Cloud-based quantum computers for business and science use, able to perform calculations not possible with conventional computers. Matthew Stock reports.
This is what the inside of a quantum computer looks like. Or at least IBM's take on the next frontier in computer science. Standard computers process information as zeros and ones But quantum computers use quantum bits - or qubits - that can assume multiple states simultaneously. SOUNDBITE (English) STEFAN FILIPP, STAFF RESEARCHER AT IBM RESEARCH, SAYING: "A quantum computer has the potential to be what we know as exponentially faster than any classical computer. That means that not only can it be faster but it can solve certain problems that can never be solved on a classical computer." This week IBM announced an upgrade to its 5 qubit processor to 16 quibits, allowing for more complex experiments. It's now aiming for 50 superconducting qubits. Quantum computing's benefit to humaity could eventually be huge, including helping to develop new medicines. SOUNDBITE (English) STEFAN FILIPP, STAFF RESEARCHER AT IBM RESEARCH, SAYING: "Instead of going into the lab and trying out a thousand different options for finding the right properties of a chemical, you can just use a quantum computer which can try out all these different properties at once to find the right composition... We can solve certain problems like molecular chemistry problems within a reasonable timescale without have to wait for billions of years for the answer." A quantum processor in your laptop, though, is highly unlikely. Preserving the quantum states means protecting them from outside vibration or heat. In this tank, the superconductors are chilled to 15 miliKelvin. That's colder than outer space. For now, IBM's Cloud-based quantum computer allows anyone from students to researchers to log on and practice building simple quantum algorithms.