IBM Q System One

The World’s First Integrated Quantum Computing System

Commissioned to work alongside IBM’s scientists and engineers, we have designed the world’s first fully integrated universal quantum computing system for scientific and commercial use – IBM Q System One.

Collaborating with Universal Design Studio, we have defined the vision for the system, where the hardware, spaces and interface are considered as a single coherent experience.

With the potential to solve problems beyond the reach of ‘classical’ computers, current IBM quantum computers can be accessed through the cloud today. To make them widely useable beyond the confines of the research lab, information processing and the machines that facilitate it needed to be re-imagined.

Unlike previous generations of quantum computers, where components are isolated and dispersed throughout a lab, IBM Q System One fits into a compact footprint alongside other systems within a dedicated data centre – a major step forward in the commercialisation of quantum computing.

In 1957, Thomas J Watson commissioned IBM’s first corporate-wide design program. Encompassing everything from products, to buildings and corporate identity, collaborators included design legends such as Charles & Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen and Paul Rand.

Iconic products such as the IBM System 360 mainframe launched soon after, which revolutionised the world – changing the way businesses thought about computer hardware. The System 360 made ‘classical’ computing scalable and practical. In the same way, Q System One will democratise quantum computing.

Our challenge was to satisfy the computer’s functional demands, whilst defining the archetype that this new form of computing would require.

To realise this ambition, the system was separated into a series of complex, interwoven structures and consolidated into a single volume. Each structure supports a custom set of components, such as the intricately engineered cryostat, where the quantum chip is suspended.

This integrated system aims to address one of the most challenging aspects of quantum computing: continuously maintaining the quality of qubits used to perform quantum computations. Powerful yet delicate, qubits – the basic unit of quantum information – quickly lose their special quantum properties, unless kept in optimal conditions.

Protecting the qubits from interference, these highly refined structures and instruments have been designed to exist in close proximity, but in complete isolation from one another. Residing inside a unique air tight glass vitrine which controls the inner environment, independent of the room outside, the components remain free from the ambient noise of temperature fluctuations, vibrations and electromagnetic waves.

All these components work together to serve as the most advanced cloud-based quantum computing platform available.

Over a period of two years, a series of iterative prototypes were created to help validate the design direction and performance criteria for the system. Goppion, a Milanese manufacturer of specialise glass display cases, realised our concept for the outer vitrine and its 3 metre square glass panels. Engineered to maintain thermal stability inside, doors on the front and back faces open effortlessly using roto-translation. This easy access simplifies the system’s maintenance and upgrade process while minimising downtime.

The IBM Q Quantum Computation Center will open later this year in Poughkeepsie, New York. This will expand IBM’s commercial quantum computing program, which already includes systems at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, New York.
This new centre will house some of the world’s most advanced cloud-based quantum computing systems, which will be accessible to members of the IBM Q Network, a worldwide community of leading Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions, and national research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for business and science.

Photography © 2019 IBM Research and Petr Krejci