Intel claims milestone in quantum computing practicality

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Intel expects to generate over $3.5 billion in AI-driven revenue in 2019.
Intel expects to generate over $3.5 billion in AI-driven revenue in 2019.

Intel Labs has unveiled what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind cryogenic control chip – code-named “Horse Ridge” – that will speed up development of full-stack quantum computing systems.

In a statement, Intel says Horse Ridge will enable control of multiple quantum bits (qubits) and set a clear path toward scaling larger systems – a major milestone on the path to quantum practicality.

Developed together with Intel’s research collaborators at QuTech, a partnership between TU Delft and TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research), Horse Ridge is fabricated using Intel’s 22nm FinFET technology.

In-house fabrication of these control chips at Intel will dramatically accelerate the company’s ability to design, test and optimise a commercially viable quantum computer.

“While there has been a lot of emphasis on the qubits themselves, the ability to control many qubits at the same time had been a challenge for the industry,” says Jim Clarke, Intel’s director of Quantum Hardware.

“Intel recognised that quantum controls were an essential piece of the puzzle we needed to solve in order to develop a large-scale commercial quantum system. That’s why we are investing in quantum error correction and controls. 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.”

Intel explains that in the race to realise the power and potential of quantum computers, researchers have focused extensively on qubit fabrication, building test chips that demonstrate the exponential power of a small number of qubits operating in superposition.

However, it notes, in early quantum hardware developments – including design, testing and characterisation of Intel’s silicon spin qubit and superconducting qubit systems – Intel identified a major bottleneck towards realising commercial-scale quantum computing: interconnects and control electronics.

“With Horse Ridge, Intel introduces an elegant solution that will enable the company to control multiple qubits and set a clear path toward scaling future systems to larger qubit counts – a major milestone on the path to quantum practicality,” the company says.

According to Reuters, quantum computers remain years away from everyday use but have drawn the interest of major technology companies. In October, it says, researchers at Alphabet’s Google said they had created a machine that can outpace conventional computers.

Other major technology firms such as International Business Machines and Microsoft are also pursuing the technology.

Intel has two quantum efforts, each examining a different way of building the core of a quantum computer. That central part of a quantum machine uses what are known as “qubits.”

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