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Intel Touts 17-Qubit Quantum Computing Chip

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Tech giant officially enters quantum computing race after it delivers new 17-Qubit chip to Dutch partner

Chip giant Intel has entered the quantum computing race after it delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip for quantum computing.

Quantum computing of course is the much touted technology that promises a major breakthrough in processing power compared to conventional computer systems.

Intel’s delivery of the test chip comes after invested $50 million (£33m) in quantum computing research back in 2015. It invested the money with QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and TNO (the Dutch Organisation for Applied Research).

Intel-Quantum-17-Qubit-2-300x200Chip Arrival

And now two years later Intel has announced the delivery of a 17-qubit superconducting test chip for quantum computing to QuTech.

The new chip was apparently fabricated by Intel and features a unique design in order to achieve improved yield and performance.

A video of unboxing the 17-qubit superconducting test chip can be found here.

Intel said the delivery of this chip demonstrates the fast progress it and QuTech are making in researching and developing a working quantum computing system.

As a quick reminder, quantum computing promises to be the ultimate in parallel computer, which should have the potential to tackle problems conventional computers can’t handle.

A quantum computer for example could simulate nature in order to advance research in chemistry, materials science and molecular modelling.

Fragile Tech

Intel said the main problem with building viable, large-scale quantum systems that produce accurate outputs is making qubits (the building blocks of quantum computing) uniform and stable.

“Qubits are tremendously fragile,” said Intel. “Any noise or unintended observation of them can cause data loss. This fragility requires them to operate at about 20 millikelvin – 250 times colder than deep space. This extreme operating environment makes the packaging of qubits key to their performance and function. Intel’s Components Research Group (CR) in Oregon and Assembly Test and Technology Development (ATTD) teams in Arizona are pushing the limits of chip design and packaging technology to address quantum computing’s unique challenges.”

The new chip is apparently the size of a US (quarter) coin, and comes with a new architecture to improve reliability, thermal performance and reduced radio frequency (RF) interference between qubits.

A scalable interconnect scheme meanwhile allows for 10 to 100 times more signals into and out of the chip as compared to wirebonded chips.

And the new chip features advanced processes, materials and designs to “enable Intel’s packaging to scale for quantum integrated circuits, which are much larger than conventional silicon chips.”

“Our quantum research has progressed to the point where our partner QuTech is simulating quantum algorithm workloads, and Intel is fabricating new qubit test chips on a regular basis in our leading-edge manufacturing facilities,” said Dr. Michael Mayberry, corporate VP and managing director of Intel Labs.

“Intel’s expertise in fabrication, control electronics and architecture sets us apart and will serve us well as we venture into new computing paradigms, from neuromorphic to quantum computing.”

“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.”

Quantum Race

But Intel is not alone in investing heavily in quantum computing.

Google for example in 2014 entered the field of quantum computing, after its Quantum Artificial Intelligence team partnered with a research team from the University of California at Santa Barbara, California.

Microsoft meanwhile has set up a laboratory dedicated to producing quantum computers. This so called ‘Station Q‘, based at the University of California, Santa Barbara will work on ways to construct machines with multiple quantum bits (qubits).

In December 2013, the British government announced it would invest £270 million over the next five years, on five Quantum Technology Centres, which will aim to develop commercial applications for quantum computing.

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