Tuesday, 10 December 2019 12:52

Intel reveals Horse Ridge quantum control chip

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Intel Labs principal engineer Stefano Pellerano holding Horse Ridge Intel Labs principal engineer Stefano Pellerano holding Horse Ridge Walden Kirsch/Intel

Intel Labs' newly revealed Horse Ridge cryogenic control chip will speed the development of full-stack quantum computing systems, according to the company.

Intel believes Horse Ridge – a device that will allow the control of multiple qubits – is a world first.

Developed in association with QuTech (a partnership between TU Delft and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research), the chip 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 optimize a commercially viable quantum computer.

Early quantum computing hardware revealed interconnects and control electronics were a major bottleneck in commercialisation, typically requiring hundreds of wires to control a single qubit. Hence Horse Ridge, which allows the control of multiple qubits.

This highly-integrated system-on-chip will simplify system design and allow for sophisticated signal processing techniques to accelerate set-up time, improve qubit performance and enable the system to efficiently scale to larger qubit counts, company officials said.

A key aspect of the design is that it moves the quibit controls inside the quantum refrigerator, reducing the wiring required. Horse Ridge converts instructions into microwave pulses that manipulate the state of the qubits.

The device is designed to operate at temperatures around 4 Kelvin, and is named after one of the coldest regions in Oregon.

Current quantum computers operate in the millikelvin range — just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero – but silicon spin qubits have properties that could allow them to operate at 1 Kelvin or higher temperatures.

Intel aims to have cryogenic controls and silicon spin qubits operate at the same temperature level, allowing the creation of a quantum computing device with the qubits and controls in one package.

"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," said Intel director of quantum hardware Jim Clarke.

"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."

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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