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.
Quantum computers perform all of their tasks in parallel which allows it to perform much faster than silicon-based systems and are able to take on tasks that traditional computers could not.
However, building large-scale accurate quantum computers is a challenge; one that is producing heterogenous, stable qubits. Qubits – for those who do not know – are very fragile. and are easy to disrupt, which means that they are forced to run in temperatures as low as 20 millikelvins: about 250 times colder than deep space. Intel has teams working on the packaging challenges associated with these extreme temperatures.
Intel delivered the 17-qubit test chip to its quantum research partners QuTech in the Netherlands, and 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). We don't know why Intel insists on measuring things using coins, either.
Intel also 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, in the meantime watch the unboxing of the Intel 17-qubit chip in the video below: