Honeywell to leapfrog rivals in quantum computer race

Honeywell's quantum computer uses ytterbium atoms trapped in this chamber, about the size of a football. Lasers manipulate the atoms to direct quantum computing calculations.

Honeywell, which once sold massive mainframes but withdrew from the business decades ago, said that it expects to improve the performance of its quantum computers by a factor of 10 every year for each of the next five years — meaning they’d be 100,000 times faster in 2025. That would blow past IBM, which has a more modest goal of doubling its performance annually.

Tony Uttley, president of Honeywell Quantum Solutions, told that the machine will have double the capability of IBM’s 53-qubit quantum computer.

Honeywell began exploring quantum computing a decade ago and launched a program in earnest five years ago. The company’s seven computers, developed by a team of about 100 people outside Boulder, Colorado, use an approach called trapped ion qubits. With it, lasers manipulate individual electrically charged ytterbium atoms housed in an H-shaped device within an airless chamber. The interactions of these ytterbium ion qubits form the basis for computation.

Quantum computing performance measurement has been created by IBM and is called Quantum Volume. IBM’s top quantum volume score is 32, a score reached with a 28-qubit machine. Honeywell is at a quantum volume of 16 with a 4-qubit machine, a score that demonstrates that different hardware choices offer different ways to achieve a particular quantum volume.

The Honeywell machines will be available over Microsoft’s Azure quantum computing cloud service. (CNET)

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