IBM Breaks Quantum Computing World RecordIBM has managed to make its quantum bits--the elements that will eventually power quantum computers--last for 100 microseconds. That makes them the longest lasting quantum bits ever, and hints that we might actually be getting close to true quantum computing.
IBM’s quantum bits, also known as qubits, lasted 2-4 times longer than the previous record’s quantum bits. That’s an impressive feat, in essentially one generation. IBM also managed to reduce data errors in the reading and storing of the bits.
A picture of the Silicon chip housing a total of three qubits.
While keeping a quantum bit functioning for 100 microseconds may not sound like a long time, it’s actually approaching the threshold for making functional quantum computers.
A functional quantum computer could revolutionize computers. Right now, silicon-based bits can be in either the on or off states, represented by a 0 and a 1. In order to do a calculation, we just flip between these states incredibly rapidly. But there’s only so fast we can shove calculations through a regular bit, so there’s a bit of a computational wall out there that we can’t exceed with your classic computer architecture.
A quantum bit, on the other hand, can hold both the on and off state simultaneously, thanks to their bizarre nature. Because of this nature, and some even more bizarre behaviour, quantum computers can process an insane amount of information almost at once. Problems that would literally take more bits than there are atoms in the universe suddenly get shrunk down in size and made computable. The most intractable, complicated equations suddenly become a piece of cake to compute.
But quantum bits are hard to keep alive, and very susceptible to contamination. even something as a small temperature change is enough to corrupt the results for an entire calculation, which is why IBM’s error correction advancements are such a big deal.
Even with IBM’s qubits, there’s still a lot more work to be done before quantum computers become viable. thanks to the incredibly short lives of the qubits, any quantum computer will need to be massive, having far more qubits than strictly necessary for the calculation.
But their advance bodes well for a future where quantum computing is refined enough to move into the home. And then, well, the world will change.