IBM Touts Quantum Computing Advance

Scientists at IBM Research say they have achieved a major breakthrough in quantum computing that will allow engineers to begin creating a full-scale quantum machine.

The breakthrough reduces data error rates in elementary computations while maintaining the integrity of mechanical properties in quantum bits of data known as qubits.

A quantum computer could have exponentially greater procAessing power than today's conventional CPUs, according to Mark Ketchen, a manager at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Quantum machines are still 10 to 15 years away. But the recent advancement opens the door to experimentation with new microfabrication techniques, IBM said. "We're finally to the point where devices are getting good enough [that] data checking and error correcting [are] possible," Ketchen said. "There's a lot of excitement."

In contrast to today's silicon-based semiconductors, IBM's superconducting qubits are made using established silicon-microfabrication techniques but are produced on a sapphire chip. This offers the potential to one day manufacture thousands or millions of qubits.

IBM isn't alone in this endeavor. Yale University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, are doing similar research. But Ketchen argued that only IBM has the ability to actually fabricate quantum chips.

He noted that current accuracy rates of 95% for operations need to climb to 99% for commercial production.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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