Intel Chip Aims To Make Quantum Computers Scalable

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Stefano Pellerano, principal engineer at Intel Labs, holds Horse Ridge. Intel

‘Horse Ridge’ chip simplifies qubit control systems, paving the way toward practical, commercially viable quantum computers

Intel said it has achieved a milestone toward commercially viable quantum computers with a first-of-its-kind cryogenic control chip called Horse Ridge.

The chip streamlines the systems used to control quantum bits, or qubits, something Intel said will be necessary for scaling systems to hundreds of thousands or millions of qubits.

Up to now, most research has focused on small-scale quantum systems that have used custom-designed control systems.

These generally involve extensive control cabling that extends outside the refrigeration unit in which the qubits are maintained, connecting them to the traditional computational devices used to regulate the qubit’s performance and to program the system.

Control system

Horse Ridge simplifies the control electronics required to operate the system, Intel said.

The device is a highly integrated, mixed-signal system-on-a-chip (SoC) that operates within the quantum refrigerator itself, bringing the control electronics closer to the qubits.

The chip acts as a radio frequency processor programmed with instructions that correspond to basic qubit operations.

It translates those instructions into electromagnetic microwave pulses that can manipulate the state of the qubits, Intel said.

Named after one of the coldest regions of Oregon, Horse Ridge can operate at about 4 Kelvin, just above absolute zero temperatures at which even atoms stop moving.

Scalability

The chip was developed by Intel along with collaborators at QuTech, a partnership between TU Delft and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).

It’s manufactured using Intel’s 22nm FinFET technology.

“The ability to control many qubits at the same time had been a challenge for the industry,” said Intel director of quantum hardware Jim Clarke.

“With Horse Ridge, Intel has developed a scalable control system that will allow us to significantly speed up testing and realise the potential of quantum computing.”

Other companies investing in quantum computing include IBM, Microsoft and Google, which in March introduced a chip called “Bristlecone” aimed at demonstrating quantum systems’ theoretical performance edge over conventional supercomputers – a milestone known as “quantum supremacy”.

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