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New York college becomes 1st university with on-campus IBM quantum computer that is 'scientifically useful'

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The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, has unveiled a new campus-based quantum computer that can be used for scientific discovery — rather than one that's just used to run proof-of-concept trials.

The new IBM System One quantum computer is powered by a processor called "Eagle" that has 127 quantum bits, or qubits, IBM representatives said April 5 in a statement. This quantum processing unit (QPU) was first announced in 2021 and debuted in a  System One machine in November last year that is used by the University of Tokyo. This quantum computer is not based on campus.

The company described the machine as "utility-scale" because it's powerful enough to serve as a scientific tool and help solve problems scientists would struggle with otherwise using conventional supercomputers alone.

RPI staff and students will be able to utilize the quantum computer to explore problems in chemistry, physics, material science and other fields, IBM said in the statement.

"When we describe “utility-scale,” we’re specifically referring to how quantum computers can now serve as scientific tools to explore new classes of problems in chemistry, physics, materials, and other fields that are beyond the reach of brute-force classical computing techniques," Jamie Garcia, technical program director for algorithms & partnerships at IBM Quantum, told Live Science.

Related: Error-corrected qubits 800 times more reliable after breakthrough, paving the way for 'next level' of quantum computing

"Put simply, quantum computers are now better at running quantum circuits than a classical supercomputer is at simulating them. This means, for the first time in History, quantum computers can be used as a computational tool for scientific exploration."

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