(DigitalTrends) IBM, one of the world’s oldest tech companies, is building a refrigerator that will house the world’s first 1-million-qubit quantum computer when it’s built.
IBM’s fridge will be enormous for one thing: 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It will be unimaginably cold, around 15 millikelvin, or -459 Fahrenheit, which is colder than outer space. It’s also named after a James Bond movie, Goldeneye.
“For the quantum effects to emerge, [quantum computers] need to be cooled down to extremely low temperatures,” Jerry Chow, director of Quantum Hardware System Development at IBM, told Digital Trends. “In fact, all the infrastructure that goes around even just the processor itself requires a fair amount of cooling, especially as you scale it up, right?”
It was this scaling-up process that led Chow and his team to the inescapable conclusion that IBM really needed to get into the refrigeration business — at least when it comes to its own quantum computers. For one thing, there’s a limit to current cooling capacity. Then there are problems with things like maintaining vacuum integrity and balancing the weight of the various components needed for chilling. “If we just do some back-of-the-envelope scaling, you start to see that, at some point, what you can get from the commercial vendors falls short,” Chow said. “You have to start thinking about how do you push beyond [that]?”
IBM won’t commit to when exactly it will deliver its million qubit computer — or, for that matter, when its Goldeneye fridge will be finished. But it’s pretty clear about its belief that quantum computing is going to be a game-changer.
In a post written for IBM’s blog earlier this year, Jay Gambetta, IBM fellow and vice president of quantum computing, likened the next generation of IBM quantum computers to the Apollo missions that resulted in the moon landing. That’s quite the comparison. It may also be accurate.