ExxonMobil and IBM to advance energy sector application of quantum computing

IBM Q System One display

IBM Q System One display

IBM Q System One combines classical and quantum computing elements into a single architecture.

The computer has 20 quantum bits (qubits), although most IT experts agree that a quantum computer actually superior to conventional quantum computers should have at least 50 quantum bits according to RES-EBA.

Looking at IBM's Q System One strengthens faith in commercial availability of quantum computers. The system comprises components that have been made to work together, including hardware designed for stability and reliability and being auto-calibrated to ensure repeatable and predictable high-quality qubits.

The entire structure of the new quantum computer is placed inside of a 9 meter cube, made entirely from 1cm thick borosilicate glass. The components include quantum hardware created to be stable and auto-calibrated to give repeatable and predictable high-quality qubits; cryogenic engineering that delivers a continuous cold and isolated quantum environment; high precision electronics in compact form factors to tightly control large numbers of qubits; quantum firmware to manage the system health and enable system upgrades without downtime for users; and classical computation to provide secure cloud access and hybrid execution of quantum algorithms. It uses a motor-driven rotation system to open the enclosure for maintenance and upgrades while minimizing downtime.

A series of independent aluminum and steel frames unify, but also decouple the system's cryostat, control electronics, and exterior casing, helping to avoid potential vibration interference that leads to "phase jitter" and qubit decoherence.

IBM has no plans to sell it but it will allow business to pay and use it over the IBM Q Network for commercial applications. The front doors of the Q System One can be open simultaneous, offering access to it's different cooling and control modules masked by a panel behind the main terminal. Officials said the cloud-based IBM Q Experience, which has been operating since 2016, has more than 100,000 users who have run more than 6.7 million experiments.

In related news, The Big Blue also announced the IBM Q Network -a partnership with energy giant ExxonMobil and research labs like CERN, the organization that built the Large Hadron Collider, Argonne, Fermilab and Lawrence Berkeley - plans to open its first IBM Q Quantum Computation Center for commercial clients in Poughkeepsie, New York later this year. Both Google and Intel have developed multi-qubit processors, and Microsoft also has been doing research in the area, including developing a Quantum Development Kit. Although the system was officially launched at CES on Tuesday, echoing the launch of the IBM PC, the Q System One is more like an early mainframe computer.

"You'll see real business clients doing real things that are really of value in a two- to five-year timeframe", Rometty said in an interview on CNBC.

The organisations believe quantum computing could provide ExxonMobil with an ability to solve computationally challenging problems, including how to optimise national power grids, perform more predictive environmental modelling and discover new materials for more efficient carbon capture. Quantum systems will be able to better address those workloads.

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