Intel Unleashes 17-Qubit Superconducting Test Chip For Quantum Computing


Intel fabricated the chip with a unique design to improve yield and performance, the Santa Clara chip maker said. IBM was one of the first large technology companies to work on quantum computers.

Qubits are fragile, and any noise or unintended observation of them can cause data loss. Quantum supremacy - the threshold when quantum machines outperform their classical counterparts on select problems - will be reached at roughly 50-qubits, but delivering on quantum's promise for applications like chemistry, materials science and cryptography is going to require machines at least 1,000 times that scale.

Intel showed off a new chip for quantum computing Tuesday as the company races toward creating a new level of advanced computing. Packaging is another huge aspect of quantum computing, as qubits have an operating temperature of around 20 millikelvin (about "250 times colder than deep space", Intel notes).

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Additionally, Intel says that the processes, materials and designs it has used mean that the packaging can scale for quantum ICs, which are larger than silicon types. It features a new architecture that makes it more reliable than previous test chips, while also giving it improved thermal performance and less radio frequency (RF) interference between qubits. The world's largest semiconductor company announced the delivery of a 17-qubit superconducting test processor for quantum computing to QuTech, its quantum research partner based in the Netherlands.

A scalable interconnect scheme that allows for 10-100 times more signals into and out of the chip as compared to wire-bonded chips. Intel and QuTech are interested in tackling the entire quantum computing stack, from the chips and devices, to the software and ecosystem.

Since their long journey into the discrete GPU heart of darkness with Larrabee - which rightfully ended up in the bin - Intel resigned themselves to ruling over the processor market, leaving traditional parallel computing indefinitely shelved. Through this partnership, the time from design and fabrication to test has been greatly accelerated.

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"With this test chip, we'll focus on connecting, controlling and measuring multiple, entangled qubits towards an error correction scheme and a logical qubit", said Professor Leo DiCarlo from QuTech. While the process doesn't quite relate to the discrete GPUs we know today, quantum computing could be applied in numerous same situations and it would only take a small number of qubits, entangled together in a super state, to offer incredible processing power. With initiatives such as quantum computing, the company is working to get ahead in emerging technologies.

"Expertise in specialized electronics combined with advanced physics is required to move quantum computing closer to being a reality", said Mayberry. These include the superconducting qubits incorporated into this newest test chip, and an alternative type called spin qubits in silicon. "These spin qubits resemble a single electron transistor similar in many ways to conventional transistors and potentially able to be manufactured with comparable processes", said QuTech.

Quantum computers will solve many problems for humanity, but mainly of the scientific kind.

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