LAKE WALES, Fla. — Intel Labs has announced 17-qubit CMOS superconducting demonstration platform that it says brings quantum computing closer to commercial development. Intel delivered the prototype this week to research partner QuTech (Delft, Netherlands), which will test it on a suite of quantum algorithms to prove the design’s commercial relevance.
Intel entered the quantum computer race in 2015, when it invested $50 million to advance quantum computing in a collaborative development effort with QuTech. The researchers aim to accelerate the development of commercially useful quantum computers by pairing Intel’s CMOS design and manufacturing expertise with QuTech’s expertise in connecting, controlling, and measuring multiple, entangled qubits.
At this year’s International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC 2017), the collaborators demonstrated key circuit blocks for an integrated cryogenic-CMOS control system that cools to 20 milli-Kelvin (250 times colder than deep space), presenting their work in a paper titled “15.5 Cryo-CMOS circuits and systems for scalable quantum computing.” They have also demonstrated a scalable “surface code” error-correction scheme that enables spatial multiplexing, describing that work in an American Physical Society (APS) paper co-authored by multiple QuTech engineers and David Michalak, a quantum computing researcher-in-residence at Intel.
Intel Labs designed the 17-qubit superconducting chipís architecture and packaging to improve yield, performance, and stability.
The research collaborators are working on two parallel efforts to perfect quantum values: a spin-qubit fabrication flow on Intel’s 300-millimeter CMOS process and the packaging advances in the superconducting prototype announced this week. With the new packaging system (see photos), the prototype realizes 17 qubits for quantum computing via an architecture that supports full error correction, improves yield, and boosts performance, according to Intel.
Managing the effort at Intel is a duo dubbed “a superposition of two Jims” by Intel colleagues: Jim Clarke, director of quantum hardware, and Jim Held, director of emerging technology research. (Superposition, the founding principle of quantum computing, is the ability to harness two values — 1 and 0 — simultaneously in a single qubit.)
“Intel’s quantum computer hardware is relatively young, but it is moving fast,” said Clarke. “I liken it to the Apollo mission, which against all odds reached the moon in just a few years. Likewise, the Intel-QuTech collaboration is a quick dash to commercial quantum computers.”
Jim Clarke, Intel director of quantum hardware, shows off the test chip.
Held said the collaborative program is assembling “an entire software stack for quantum algorithms, from qubit operations to the hardware and software architectures required and the quantum applications themselves. In 2016, we built a large-scale qubit simulator with 42 qubits — since extended to 45 qubits — running on an Intel supercomputer, so that we have a platform to develop quantum software that is ready for use at the same time our quantum hardware is ready for commercialization."
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