17-qubit chip could shape next stage of quantum computing development

Dutch researchers to test out superconducting processor

Intel has started shipping a 17-qubit quantum computing processor to Dutch scientists using a unique design it said would improve yield and performance.

The chips were sent to QuTech, Intel's quantum research partner in the Netherlands. Intel said that the qubits inside the chip are "tremendously fragile". 

Intel said that 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. It added this extreme operating environment makes the packaging of qubits key to their performance and function. 

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Intel said its 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 about the size of a half-dollar coin and boasts a new architecture allowing improved reliability, thermal performance and reduced radio frequency (RF) interference between qubits and a scalable interconnect scheme that allows for 10 to 100 times more signals into and out of the chip as compared to wirebonded chips.

As well as this, Intel said it used advanced processes, materials and designs that enable Intel's packaging to scale for quantum integrated circuits, which are much larger than conventional silicon chips.

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"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 vice president 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."

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Professor Leo DiCarlo of QuTech said the new test chip would allow his team to focus on connecting, controlling and measuring multiple, entangled qubits towards an error correction scheme and a logical qubit. 

"This work will allow us to uncover new insights in quantum computing that will shape the next stage of development."

In addition to developing and testing superconducting qubit devices, Intel and QuTech will also collaborate on the entire quantum system or "stack" from qubit devices to the hardware and software architecture required to control these devices as well as quantum applications.

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