Jeffrey Welser, vice president and lab director at IBM Research at Almaden, was recently interviewed by Dean Takahashi to “get his take on quantum computing for the layperson”.
Welser explained that quantum computing is a form of computing that takes advantage of some quantum effects that we believe can do certain types of algorithms much more efficiently than classical. The basic unit for a quantum computer is something we call a quantum bit, a qubit.
The structure of the system is about isolating the chip. The chip is down on that bottom section where those wires are all going in. That’s the actual quantum computing chip. When it’s covered up, this whole system goes down to low pressure, but also goes down to low temperature, which is what really matters.
IBM has put together a whole open-source software infrastructure called Qiskit. It’s giving people the tools they need to try to program this. One of the challenges is, as you can guess, it’s very different programming than we’re used to. Qiskit has ways you can do individual gates to manipulate qubits if you understand that part.
Most of the people that are looking at it are in three main areas. One is for chemistry or materials discovery. The next one is optimization. We have J.P. Morgan Chase and Barclays as members. The other one is for AI and machine learning.