Intel is testing its smallest quantum computing chip yet

  • Intel is going to use “spin qubit” instead of superconducting qubits.
  • The new tech could fit 1500 qubits across the diameter of a human hair.
  • The chip is fabricated using existing procedures.
Earlier this year Intel unveiled its 49-qubit superconducting test chips and announced a 17-qubit version that was under development. Currently, the company manufactures quantum chips similar to its competitors Google and IBM, which recently announced a 50-qubit and 72-qubit quantum computers respectively.

Now, researchers from the company are taking new steps towards the development of a chip that uses the “spin qubit” instead of superconducting qubits. The new chip is created using the same manufacturing techniques that Intel uses for creating traditional chips in Intel’s D1D fabrication unit in Oregon.

What is a qubit? How does a quantum computer work?

A qubit is a unit of information in quantum computing, which is analogous to the classical binary bit. In a classical system a bit can be either in on or off state, but in a qubit, quantum mechanics allows the qubit to be in a superposition of both states at the same time. Hence, it can represent many states at the same time and thereby increase the computer’s processing power.

A quantum computer is a device that performs quantum computing using qubits. They are different from binary digital electronic computers ,whereas common digital computing binary digits (bits), quantum computation uses quantum bits, which can be in superpositions of states.

What is a spin qubit chip?

A spin qubit chip does not contain transistors, but qubits or quantum bits that can hold a single electron. This single electron then can then be in multiple spin states, either on or off, or something in between the two states, simultaneously. That in turn offers vastly greater computing power than transistors, and is the basis of quantum computing.

What is a superconducting qubit?

Superconducting qubits are electronic circuits that use tiny structures called Josephson tunnel junction. When cooled to temperatures around 20 mK, these circuits behave like "artificial atoms," exhibiting quantised states similar to the superposition states of a spin qubit.

What's new about Intel’s chip?

The chip Intel is testing is smaller than a pencil’s eraser and is the smallest quantum chip developed by the company so far.

It requires extremely cold temperatures for performing quantum operations, exactly 460 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, which is about 250 times colder than space. The most astonishing feature here is that it houses qubits approximately the size of 50 nanometers across. These qubits can only be viewed under an electron microscope and the company could fit about 1500 qubits across a diameter of a single human hair.

This means the designs of quantum chips could be scaled up, as the company believes it could not fit more than 1000 qubits on the currently existing superconducting qubit architecture.

Intel even says that, “Future quantum computers will contain thousands or even millions of qubits — and will be vastly more powerful than today’s fastest supercomputers.”

Image Source: Intel
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