IARPA awards IBM grant to further quantum computing research

Jerry Chow, a program manager for IBM Research’s Experimental Quantum Computing unit, working on a quantum computer. (IBM)

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The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity has awarded a multiyear research grant to IBM, funding research that will lay the groundwork for a universal quantum computer.

IARPA, the research and development office for the nation’s intelligence agencies, issued the grant under its Logical Qubits (LogiQ) program, which seeks to overcome the current limitations of quantum systems by building a logical qubit from other imperfect physical qubits.

Qubits, or quantum bits, is what distinguishes quantum computing from current computing systems. While bits that run on regular computers are stored as a 0 or 1, qubits can be stored as a 0, 1 or both (denoted as “0+1”). The latter is known as a “superposition,” and it’s what allows quantum computers to work exponentially faster.

Earlier this year, IBM uncovered a way to detect and correct errors that are commonplace in quantum computing as well as assembling a new circuit design that would allow quantum computers to be built at a scale never before seen. That work came out of IARPA’s Multi-Qubit Coherent Operations program.

“We are at a turning point where quantum computing is moving beyond theory and experimentation to include engineering and applications,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research. “Quantum computing promises to deliver exponentially more speed and power not achievable by today’s most powerful computers with the potential to impact business needs on a global scale. Investments and collaboration by government, industry and academia, such as this IARPA program, are necessary to help overcome some of the challenges towards building a universal quantum computer.”

Jerry Chow, a program manager for IBM Research’s Experimental Quantum Computing unit, said the LogiQ program is a “natural progression” of the New York-based company’s work, and could lead to advances in everything from search performance to artificial intelligence to cancer research.

“It’s continuing this idea of increasing the number of qubits, but the next threshold is to reach a point where you could start to employ some of the concepts of error correction to encode a logical qubit of information in faulty and noisy physical qubits,” Chow told FedScoop.

The terms of the grant were not disclosed.

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Defense & Intelligence, emerging technology, Government IT News, IARPA, IBM, quantum computing, Tech
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