IBM said Monday that it had more than doubled the size of its quantum chip, which could be a step along the road to make it more powerful than typical processors within roughly two years.
Called Eagle, the new chip is said to have 127 qubits, a unit of measurement commonly used to define the size of a quantum computer. That number would mean that IBM has more than doubled the number of supercomputing qubits found in quantum machines made by the likes of Honeywell, Google and researchers in China.
Qubits represent quantum information and can be both a 1 and 0 simultaneously, a property called superposition, whereas traditional bits represent either a 1 or a 0. Performance increases in typical computers move at a relatively incremental pace, but adding additional qubits can roughly double a chip's power with each additional new unit.
IBM credited a design process that creates layers for the various components, while placing the qubits on a single layer, as an important factor in the breakthrough. The multilayer design, manufactured at its facilities in New York, could let its engineers achieve big increases in processing power.
The company said the chip it unveiled will lead to such systems outperforming typical computers for some tasks within the next two years. But there are other factors that dictate quantum chip performance beyond the number of qubits, such as the quantum volume.
IBM did not release performance data with the chip Monday, and said that it couldn't guarantee a level of performance when it rolls out early access to its Quantum Network next month.
IBM said that it planned to release a 433 qubit chip in 2022, and a 1,121 qubit chip the year after. The latter chip may allow it to achieve a so-called quantum advantage, the company said.