Last May, I had a discussion with Peter Chapman, CEO of IonQ, a start-up quantum computing company. Before coming to IonQ, Chapman worked for Amazon, where he was responsible for all the technical complexities of Amazon Prime. IonQ had accomplished a lot in the twelve months that Chapman had been at the helm, so I was looking forward to talking to him.
My biggest surprise during that discussion was that IonQ was simultaneously working on its next three generations of its trapped-ion quantum computers – 5th, 6th, and 7th generations.
In a recent follow-up with Chapman, including Chris Monroe, IonQ’s Co-founder and Chief Scientist, we discussed IonQ’s release of its 5th generation quantum hardware. Keep in mind that the 6th and 7th generations are still in development. Chapman said that each generation would be smaller and more powerful than its predecessor when released. Although he didn’t mention it, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chapman’s team hasn’t already begun work on IonQ’s 8th generation processor.
Features of IonQ’s new 5th generation quantum computer
A qubit is the fundamental unit of information in a quantum computer. A classical computer bit can only be a one or zero. A qubit can also exist as a one or zero, but when in a quantum state, it can be a superposition of both values. IonQIon says its ‘s newest quantum hardware has 32 ion qubits in its latest release, almost tripling the 11 qubits in its previous quantum computer.
Robert Niffenegger, a Ph.D. and a member of the Trapped Ion and Photonics group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, said he wasn’t surprised at the large jump in the number of qubits. ”Honestly, I think a lot of people were just holding their breath until they [IonQ] announced. They’ve published papers on
COLLEGE PARK, Md., Oct. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — IonQ, the leader in quantum computing, today unveiled its next generation quantum computer system. The new hardware features 32 perfect qubits with low gate errors, giving it an expected quantum volume greater than 4,000,000.
The new system consists of perfect atomic clock qubits and random access all-to-all gate operations for efficient software compilation of applications. It will be first available via private beta, and then commercially available on Amazon Braket, where IonQ’s 11 qubit system is generally available for customers today, and Microsoft’s Azure Quantum. Pre-existing IonQ customers and partners, including 1QBit, Cambridge Quantum Computing, QC Ware, Zapata Computing and more are excited to experience the benefits of the new system, enabling them to drive towards the first wave of quantum applications.
The company’s trapped-ion quantum computers have a proven track record of outperforming all other available quantum hardware. With this new iteration, IonQ continues to lead the quantum computing field into the future. IonQ is already working on its next two generations of quantum computers, with each new system expected to be both exponentially more powerful and smaller in size than the last.
“In a single generation of hardware, we went from 11 to 32 qubits, and more importantly, improved the fidelity required to use all 32 qubits,” said IonQ CEO & President Peter Chapman. “Depending on the application, customers will need somewhere between 80 and 150 very high fidelity qubits and logic gates to see quantum advantage. Our goal is to double or more the number of qubits each year. With two new generations of hardware already in the works, companies not working with quantum now are at risk of falling behind.
“The technology underpinning IonQ’s new system is based on decades of proven research and advancements, and
IonQ, a College Park, Maryland-based quantum computing hardware and software company has announced that it has launched its next generation quantum computer. As part of its announcement, the company is claiming that its new machine is the most powerful quantum computer built to date based on IBM’s quantum volume metric. The company has also announced that the new computer will be made available to customers soon.
Despite the headlines claiming that the age of quantum computers is upon us, they are still very much in their infancy. In most ways, conventional computers still outperform them by a wide margin. But the promise of future capabilities is fueling an ever-increasing competition between established companies like IBM, Microsoft and Google, and recent startups like IonQ.
Because the technology is still so new, quantum computer makers are working on different approaches to building them. IBM and Google, for example, use superconducting qubits. D-Wave, on the other hand, uses annealer technology, whereby qubits are cooled during execution of an algorithm, which allows for passively changing their value.
IonQ takes yet another approach, using ion traps. The reason for the different approaches lies with the way that qubits are created and manipulated—and perhaps more importantly, with the errors that occur when qubits are used. Some companies are gambling that the best approach to dealing with error correction is to put more qubits in a machine and then use separate systems to deal with resulting errors. Others (like IonQ) take the opposite approach—they are attempting to develop qubits that are inherently less error prone—even if it means holding down the number of qubits. The new system from IonQ has 32 qubits (compared to 50 in IBM and Google machines), but they have reduced the error rate to give their new system 99.9 percent fidelity.
Trapped-ion quantum computing startup IonQ today announced the launch of its latest quantum computer, which features what IonQ calls “32 perfect qubits with low gate errors.”
Using IBM’s preferred quantum benchmark, IonQ expects to hit a quantum volume of 4,000,000. That’s a massive increase over the double-digit quantum volume numbers that IBM itself recently announced and it’s a pretty extraordinary claim on IonQ’s side, as this would make its system the most powerful quantum computer yet.
The (well-funded) company has never used this metric before. Through a spokesperson, IonQ also noted that it doesn’t necessarily think quantum volume is the best metric, but since the rest of the industry is using it, it decided to release this number. The company argues that its ability to achieve 99.9% fidelity between qubits has allowed it to achieve this breakthrough.
“In a single generation of hardware, we went from 11 to 32 qubits, and more importantly, improved the fidelity required to use all 32 qubits,” said IonQ CEO and president Peter Chapman . “Depending on the application, customers will need somewhere between 80 and 150 very high-fidelity qubits and logic gates to see quantum advantage. Our goal is to double or more the number of qubits each year. With two new generations of hardware already in the works, companies not working with quantum now are at risk of falling behind.”
Image Credits: Kai Hudek, IonQ
It’s worth noting that IonQ’s trapped-ion approach is quite different from IBM’s (or D-Wave’s for that matter) which uses a very different technique. That makes it hard to compare raw qubit counts between different vendors. The quantum volume metric is meant to make it easier to compare these systems, however.
“The new system we’re deploying today is able