IBM Research IBM Quantum System One

The IBM Q System One is the world’s first fully integrated universal quantum computing system – a new technology poised to change everything in the years ahead.

As a technology with no precedents, the IBM Q System One required a defining vision that could knit together its hardware, spaces and interface into a single coherent vision. To create this landmark computer, IBM turned to Map and our sister practice Universal Design Studio.

Unlike previous generations of quantum computers, in which components were isolated and dispersed throughout a lab, the IBM Q System One fits inside a compact footprint – a major step forward in the commercialisation of quantum computing.

The design challenge lay in satisfying a quantum computer’s complex functional demands, while also defining the archetype that this form of computing will adopt moving forward. How do you give shape and structure to a revolutionary new technology?

To realise the project, the team separated the system into a series of complex, interwoven structures that could then be consolidated into a single glass volume. Each structure supports a set of custom components, such as the intricately engineered cryostat in which the quantum chip itself is suspended.

As quantum computing spreads throughout society, the IBM Q System One will stand as its forebear – the design from which this new field of technology will ultimately grow.

Client
IBM Research
Year
2019
Map Team
Will Howe, Jason Holley, Rami Santala, Fiona O’Leary + Jon Marshall
Client Team
Robert Wisnieff, Mark Podlaseck + Melissa Turesky
Engineering Team
James Speidell, Valerio Grendanin + Tony Frangione
Hardware Team
Michael Gordan, Ray Laning, Dave Olsen + Khaalid McMillan
Production Team
Goppion SpA
Visualisations
Recom Farmhouse
Graphic Team
Carl De Torres + Ryan Mellody
Collaborators
Fascinate
Photography
Connie Zhou, Petr Krejci + IBM Research
Special thanks to
Werner Herzog, Douglas Trumbull + Skip Lievsay

IBM Research IBM Quantum System One

What does a quantum computer look like? While those working in the field know that this technology represents their future, with capabilities potentially far in advance of classical computers, current quantum computers resemble science experiments – a series of disparate elements spread around a laboratory that can only be accessed through the cloud.

The IBM Q System One, however, is different: it is the world’s first fully integrated universal quantum computing system for scientific and commercial use. Designed by Map and our sister practice Universal Design Studio, it is the first time that a quantum computer has existed as a single, identifiable physical form.

Collaborating with IBM’s scientists and engineers, the team were tasked with designing the System One’s casing and interface, signalling the leap from a theoretical laboratory experiment to a packaged commercial product. The IBM Q System One suddenly makes the future of technology tangible.

Creating this physical form was an incredible challenge. Quantum computing is made possible by qubits, a unit of quantum information, but these qubits are incredibly delicate – any vibrations, ambient noise or temperature change can cause them to lose their properties. Qubits do not want to be in contact with their environment, hence why quantum computers are typically dispersed.

To overcome this, the team had to separate the system into a series of complex, interwoven structures which could then be consolidated into a single volume: an airtight glass vitrine, whose concealed cantilevered structure keeps the computer’s elements in isolation as well as highlighting the distinctive hardware element required by quantum computing: the cryostat.

This cryostat freezes atoms at temperatures colder than outer space, reducing the risk of the qubits losing their properties. Within the vitrine, the cryostat hangs down like a mechanical chandelier, placing the device’s cutting-edge technology front and centre in the design.

The vitrine was created by Goppion, a Milanese manufacturer of specialised glass display cases, and it provides easy access to the computer such that it can be upgraded as quantum technology rapidly advances. The System One currently operates a 20-qubit chip, but has been designed such that it can adapt to 200-qubit hardware, giving it an extended projected lifespan far beyond what is normally seen in computer technology. It is the first version of the technology that can be produced by regular engineers with no specialism in quantum computing,

This emphasis on design as a vital tool in the creation of cutting-edge technology ties to the history of IBM. From the 1950s onwards, IBM’s design director Eliot Noyes enlisted celebrated designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Paul Rand and Isamu Noguchi to work on the company’s products as well as its corporate environments. With the IBM Q System One, Map is proud to have joined this list of collaborators, working in close proximity with the company’s technologists.

The IBM Q System One is living proof of the power and importance of design to technology. It is a world's first system, which both satisfies all of quantum computings complex functional demands, as well as defining a new archetype that will become ever more important in the years ahead.

Client
IBM Research
Year
2019
Map Team
Will Howe, Jason Holley, Rami Santala, Fiona O’Leary + Jon Marshall
Client Team
Robert Wisnieff, Mark Podlaseck + Melissa Turesky
Engineering Team
James Speidell, Valerio Grendanin + Tony Frangione
Hardware Team
Michael Gordan, Ray Laning, Dave Olsen + Khaalid McMillan
Production Team
Goppion SpA
Visualisations
Recom Farmhouse
Graphic Team
Carl De Torres + Ryan Mellody
Collaborators
Fascinate
Photography
Connie Zhou, Petr Krejci + IBM Research
Special thanks to
Werner Herzog, Douglas Trumbull + Skip Lievsay

By designing the System One as an integrated system, we wanted to give people an intuitive grasp of what a quantum computer is and show that it is coming together as a technology.

Bob Wisnieff. Chief Technical Officer, IBM Q