CHIPMAKER Intel is working on developing quantum computers and, just a few months after IBM, has started shipping its first 17-qubit test chip to Dutch researchers.
Unlike today's processors, quantum computers perform all of their tasks in parallel and so perform much faster than silicon-based systems. They are able to take on tasks that traditional computers could not.
However, building large-scale, accurate quantum computers is a challenge; one of which is producing heterogenous, stable qubits. Qubits are very fragile, and are easy to disrupt; this means that they are forced to run in temperatures as low as 20 millikelvin: about 250 times colder than deep space. Intel has teams working on the packaging challenges associated with these extreme temperatures.
Intel has delivered the 17-qubit test chip to its quantum research partner QuTech in the Netherlands. The company says that it used a unique design to achieve improved yield and chip performance.
The chip is around the size of a US quarter (25mm), in a package ‘about the size of a half-dollar' (around 30mm). No, we don't know why Intel insists on measuring things using coins, either.
The architecture lends itself to ‘improved reliability, thermal performance, and reduced radio frequency interference between qubits'. Intel also uses a scalable interconnect scheme, which facilitates up to 100 times more signals into and out of the chip compared to wirebonded models.
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.
"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 of QuTech.
"This work will allow us to uncover new insights in quantum computing that will shape the next stage of development."
Intel and QuTech are working on the entire quantum stack, from hardware to applications. µ
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