IBM Q quantum computer
Quantum ComputingScience and Technology

IBM Q quantum computer


The field of quantum computing is advancing rapidly, and IBM has established itself as an industry leader with the IBM Q quantum computer. This powerful quantum system promises to revolutionize computing by harnessing the strange properties of quantum mechanics. In this article, we explore the history, technology, and potential impacts of the pioneering IBM Q quantum computer.

A Brief History of Quantum Computing at IBM

  • IBM has been at the forefront of quantum computing research since the 1980s when physicist Richard Feynman first proposed the idea of a quantum computer.
  • In 2016, IBM Q quantum computer prototypes were accessible to the public via the cloud.
  • In 2019, IBM unveiled its Q System One, touted as the first integrated quantum computing system designed for commercial use.
  • Today, IBM offers cloud-based access to its IBM Q quantum computers through its Quantum Experience platform.

How IBM’s Quantum Computer Works

The IBM Q quantum computer leverages the unique phenomena of quantum physics to perform calculations exponentially faster than classical computers. Here’s a quick overview:

  • It uses superconducting qubits made from niobium metals on a silicon wafer. Qubits are the quantum version of traditional computer bits.
  • These qubits exist in a superposition of states until measured, allowing massive parallelism.
  • Qubits are manipulated and entangled together using microwave pulses to run quantum algorithms.
  • The quantum state is very fragile. The system operates at just above absolute zero to maintain quantum coherence.

IBM Q Systems Specifications

IBM currently operates quantum computers with 7 to 65+ qubits. They plan to steadily scale up computational power over time.

System Qubits Quantum Volume* Year Released
IBM Q System One 53 qubits N/A 2019
IBM Q Poughkeepsie 7 qubits 2 2021
IBM Q Osprey 54 qubits N/A 2021
IBM Q Condor 65 qubits 128 2021
IBM Q Falcon 27 qubits 32 2022
*Quantum Volume is a hardware performance metric developed by IBM that accounts for qubit number, connectivity, and error rates. A higher Quantum Volume indicates greater capabilities.

Potential Applications and Impacts

The IBM Q quantum computer has the potential to revolutionize fields like:

  • Chemistry – Simulating chemical reactions and drug discovery.
  • Finance – Optimizing portfolios and identifying fraud.
  • Logistics – Finding optimal paths and resource allocations.
  • Artificial Intelligence – Speeding up machine learning.
  • Security – Breaking current encryption schemes.

While universal fault-tolerant quantum computers remain years away, IBM Q systems are already experimenting with quantum applications today. IBM is also making quantum computing more accessible to students and researchers worldwide through cloud access. The IBM Q quantum computer marks a major milestone in realizing the long-held dream of scalable quantum computing.

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The Future of IBM Q Quantum Computers

IBM has outlined an ambitious roadmap for its quantum systems:

  • In the near-term, IBM aims to build quantum computers with over 1000 qubits and steadily increase the Quantum Volume.
  • By 2025, IBM plans to have a 4,000+ qubit system with Quantum Volume of 64.
  • The 2030 goal is to achieve fault tolerance and scale to millions of qubits.

To achieve these targets, IBM researchers are focused on improving qubit design, manufacturing, and error correction. IBM Q quantum computers are on the leading edge, but face stiff competition from companies like Google, Microsoft, Intel and others also working to realize the promise of quantum computing.

Ongoing Challenges and Limitations

While representing a huge leap forward, the IBM Q quantum computer faces some ongoing challenges:

  • Qubits remain prone to errors and decoherence. This introduces noise and limits the number of operations that can be performed before results degrade. More work is needed in error correction.
  • It is challenging to manufacture large numbers of high quality qubits and interconnect them for vast parallelism.
  • Quantum computers have specialized uses where they outperform classical systems, but are not yet general purpose machines. Algorithms and applications are still maturing.
  • Accessing quantum systems requires specialized knowledge and training in quantum information science.

The field of quantum computing still has many open problems to solve and likely decades more work ahead. However, the rapid pace of progress in systems like the IBM Q quantum computer suggest these challenges are surmountable.


The IBM Q quantum computer represents a milestone achievement in the decades-long pursuit of scalable quantum computing. While universal fault tolerant quantum computers likely remain years away, IBM’s steady progress points to a future where quantum systems work in concert with classical supercomputers to advance human knowledge. IBM continues to blaze the trail in developing quantum computing platforms and making them accessible to a global community of researchers and developers. The IBM Q quantum computer has brought the promises of quantum computing demonstrably closer to reality.



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