Quantum Computing

IBM Says Experiments Demonstrate Hardware Improvements, Fault Mitigation Innovations Offer a Path to Quantum Utility

Insider Summary

  • IBM Quantum and UC Berkeley published findings showing that noisy quantum computers can outperform supercomputers at certain tasks.
  • Scientists call this progress toward quantum utility.
  • Image: View of the interior of the cryostat that cools the IBM Quantum Eagle, a utility-scale quantum processor at 127 qubits.

The quantum era may have taken another giant leap.

In a study published in Natural, IBM Quantum and UC Berkeley publish findings showing that noisy quantum computers can outperform supercomputers at certain tasks. Carefully avoiding terms like “quantum supremacy” or “quantum superiority,” scientists say the experiment is a step toward quantum utility — making quantum computers useful.

In a blog post, the researchers explain that they are running increasingly complex physical simulations on 127-qubit IBM Quantum Eagle processor while the rest of the team attempted the same calculations using sophisticated classical approximation methods on supercomputers located at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and Purdue University.

According to the researchers, Eagle has always provided accurate answers, convincing the team that quantum computers offer more accurate answers than classical estimation methods.

“The level of agreement between quantum and classical computation on a problem of this size is quite surprising to me personally,” said IBM Quantum Scientist Andrew Eddins. “Hopefully this impresses everyone.”

In a LinkedIn Post, Dario Gil, IBM’s Senior Vice President and Director of Research, labeled the achievement a milestone in the history of the company.

“The IBM Quantum team has achieved a significant milestone in the field by demonstrating the simulation of physical systems (specifically, the Ising model) that is more accurate than the most well-known classical methods,” wrote Gil. “The results, achieved in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, were published in the scientific journal Nature, gracing the cover. The results illustrate the pioneering capabilities of IBM quantum computers, specifically our IBM Eagle 127-qubit processor, which can now apply new, widely applicable error mitigation techniques to many problems of great interest to science and business.”


Hardware Repair and Error Correction

The researchers say the results depend heavily on IBM hardware – including advances in coherence and calibration of superconducting processors at scale – and error correction techniques. Moreover, the researchers report in the paper that they demonstrated the ability to characterize and manipulate noise across a wide range of devices, further increasing the reliability of the results obtained.

The team also reported that to validate the accuracy of the measured expected values, the scientists compared them with the output from a series that could be verified with certainty. In situations involving strong entanglement, quantum computers provide correct results that elude leading classical approximations, including pure state-based 1D and 2D tensor network methods.

Quantum Utility

This experimental finding serves as a basic tool for the realization of short-term quantum applications, according to IBM scientists. The advances paved the way for future advances in quantum computing, promising potential solutions to complex problems that currently exceed the capabilities of classical computing.

In a blog post, the team wrote: “This work excites us for many reasons. This is a realistic scenario using today’s available IBM Quantum processors to explore meaningful computations and realistic applications before the fault tolerance era. In addition to providing a proof of principle demonstration, we provide results that are accurate enough to be useful. The model of computation we explore with this work is a core aspect of many algorithms designed for short-term quantum devices. And the size of the circuit — Read more about the progress made in increasing the performance of the IBM Quantum Eagle processor over the last two years, here 127 qubit running 60 steps worth of quantum gates – are some of the longest running, most successful run ever.

While significant progress has been made, the researchers acknowledge that further work is needed to improve the fault tolerance and scalability of quantum processors.

Researchers specifically mention that there is a change that other classical methods and special computers can provide accurate answers in the task. However, it paved the way for using quantum for real-world problems.

“We can start to think of quantum computers as tools for studying problems that would be difficult to study otherwise,” said Sarah Sheldon, senior manager, Quantum Theory and Capabilities at IBM Quantum.

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