IBM’s breakthrough to enable Quantum Computers take lead over supercomputers

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International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) announced that its researchers have successfully developed a new method of simulating molecules on a quantum computer that will help in revolutionizing materials science and chemistry one day.

They performed simulation of a molecule using a seven-qubit quantum processor for addressing molecular structure problem, beyond period I elements like Hydrogen and Helium, for beryllium-hydride (BeH2) molecule. It is the largest ever simulated molecule on a quantum computer and will help in developing many practical applications in material engineering, energy and medical fields.

A qubit, or a quantum bit, is the counterpart in quantum computing to the binary digit. It is the basic unit of information in a quantum computer, the same way a bit is the basic unit of information in a classical computer. The regular old bit is replaced by the new quantum bit to make the processing power millions of times greater than the traditional computers.

In the breakthrough, that was published in the scientific journal – Nature, the IBM team used six qubits of a seven-qubit processor to measure the lowest energy state of BeH2, a key measurement for understanding chemical reactions. The lower energy states of the molecule dictate the structure of the molecule and its interaction with other molecules. This information is significant for chemists to design new reactions, molecules, and chemical processes for industrial applications.

As per the researchers in the blog post, “Our scheme contrasts from previously studied quantum simulation algorithms, which focus on adapting classical molecular simulation schemes to quantum hardware – and in so doing not effectively taking into account the limited overheads of current realistic quantum devices.”

IBM has adopted Quantum Volume, a new metric, to characterize the computational power, which accounts for the number and quality of qubits, circuit connectivity, and error rates of operations.

Also read: IBM investing $240 million in MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab

The IBM researchers added, “With future quantum processors, that will have more quantum volume, we will be able to explore the power of this approach to quantum simulation for increasingly complex molecules that are beyond classical computing capabilities. The ability to simulate chemical reactions accurately, is conductive to the efforts of discovering new drugs, fertilizers, even new sustainable energy sources.”

IBM anticipates that for future applications in quantum computing, certain parts of the problem can be run on the classical machine, while difficult computational tasks will be loaded to the quantum computer.

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