BREAK­THROUGH-BOUND?

Houston Chronicle - - TEXAS INC - jor­[email protected] twit­ter.com/jd­blum23 By Jor­dan Blum

Exxon Mo­bil and IBM are team­ing up in a quest for quan­tum com­put­ing ad­vances.

Exxon Mo­bil Corp. is a found­ing part­ner with IBM on a new quan­tum com­put­ing net­work that they con­tend could lead to new break­throughs in petro­chem­i­cals, elec­tric grid man­age­ment and cli­mate change mod­el­ing.

Quan­tum com­put­ing, con­sid­ered the next big break­through in in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, re­mains in its in­fancy. Quan­tum com­put­ing musters pro­cess­ing power that ex­ceeds that of to­day’s su­per­com­put­ers and puts that power to en­hance re­search as well as com­puter models used to pre­dict the out­come of de­ci­sions, ac­tions, al­ter­na­tives and ex­ter­nal events.

Exxon Mo­bil is the first en­ergy com­pany to join the new IBM Q Net­work of For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions and re­search labs to work with the newly un­veiled quan­tum com­put­ing sys­tem. The new IBM Q Sys­tem One is the first ef­fort to take quan­tum com­put­ing into com­mer­cial use by IBM, head­quar­tered in Ar­monk, N.Y.

Other part­ners in­clude bank­ing gi­ant JPMor­gan Chase & Co., tech­nol­ogy and ap­pli­ance man­u­fac­turer Sam­sung, Ger­man au­tomaker Daim­ler and con­sult­ing firm Ac­cen­ture.

“The scale and com­plex­ity of many chal­lenges we face in our busi­ness sur­pass the lim­its of to­day’s tra­di­tional com­put­ers,” said Vi­jay Swarup, vice pres­i­dent of re­search and de­vel­op­ment for Exxon­Mo­bil Re­search and En­gi­neer­ing Com­pany. “Quan­tum com­put­ing can po­ten­tially pro­vide us with ca­pa­bil­i­ties to sim­u­late na­ture and chem­istry that we’ve never had be­fore.”

Exxon Mo­bil also cited the po­ten­tial to use more ac­cu­rate quan­tum chem­istry cal­cu­la­tions for the dis­cov­ery of new ma­te­ri­als that could en­hance car­bon cap­ture at power plants and other pol­lu­tion sources.

“The ad­vance­ment of new break­throughs,” Swarup added, “will be crit­i­cal in ad­dress­ing the dual chal­lenge of pro­duc­ing en­ergy to fuel economies and meet­ing con­sumers’ needs while manag­ing the risks of cli­mate change.”

Many sci­en­tists and in­dus­try an­a­lysts be­lieve quan­tum com­put­ing is the key to cre­at­ing more pow­er­ful ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. Un­like typ­i­cal com­put­ers that use bi­nary dig­its of ones and ze­ros, quan­tum com­put­ing em­ploys quan­tum bits, called qubits, that can si­mul­ta­ne­ously rep­re­sent both ones and ze­ros. Qubits are so frag­ile and volatile that IBM used the same com­pany that pro­tects “The Mona Lisa” at the Lou­vre and the Crown Jewels at the Tower of Lon­don to pro­tect and cool the hard­ware.

The Q Sys­tem One is en­closed in a 9-foot-tall, 9-foot-wide case of half-inch thick borosil­i­cate glass form­ing a sealed, air­tight en­clo­sure, IBM said. A se­ries of in­de­pen­dent alu­minum and steel frames unify the sys­tem to avoid the po­ten­tial vi­bra­tion in­ter­fer­ence that can cor­rupt the qubits.

IBM said its sys­tem is the first de­vel­oped for com­mer­cial use. “IBM Q sys­tems are de­signed to one day tackle prob­lems that are cur­rently seen as too com­plex and ex­po­nen­tial in na­ture for clas­si­cal sys­tems to han­dle,” the com­pany said.

Com­pa­nies can’t just buy the new com­put­ers yet though. Thus far, the com­put­ing power is avail­able only via IBM’s cloud net­work. But Exxon Mo­bil can work di­rectly with IBM sci­en­tists on prob­lem solv­ing and al­go­rithms.

Justin Sul­li­van / Getty Images

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty de­liv­ers a keynote ad­dress at The Vene­tian Las Ve­gas on Tues­day for CES 2019, where IBM un­veiled its com­mer­cial quan­tum com­put­ing sys­tem. Exxon Mo­bil will be the first en­ergy com­pany to join IBM in its Q Net­work of For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions and re­search labs that work with the quan­tum com­put­ing sys­tem.

David Becker / Getty Images

The new Q Sys­tem One, dis­played at CES 2019, is IBM’s first ef­fort to take quan­tum com­put­ing into com­mer­cial use.

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