Intel manufactures first qubits and brings quantum computing closer – Tecnoblog

When the subject is quantum computeros qubits they almost always appear in conversation as an abstract and distant concept. It may be different from now on: the Intel revealed to have successfully produced the first silicon qubits on an industrial scale (without going through manual steps). This is a breakthrough that brings quantum computing closer to reality.

A tiny quantum computing chip in a pencil eraser (image: publicity/Intel)
A tiny quantum computing chip in a pencil eraser (image: publicity/Intel)

Intel didn’t achieve this feat alone. The work, which was peer-reviewed and published in the scientific journal Nature Electronicsis the result of a partnership with QuTech, a research center on quantum computing created by the Technical University of Delft and the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research.

What Intel and QuTech have basically developed is a process that makes it possible to produce more than ten thousand arrays of multiple silicon qubits on a single wafer. But what does that mean? Let’s start with the definition of qubit.

Qubit is an abbreviation for quantum bit. While in current computing (based on binary logic) we have a bit assuming a state represented by 0 or 1, in quantum computing a qubit can assume 0, 1 or a superposition of both values.

The possibilities that this approach brings are considered revolutionary. Not by chance, quantum computing is seen as the answer to problems so complex that, today, would take days or weeks to solve by traditional computing.

Theoretically, the more qubits a quantum computer supports, the greater its processing power. The problem is that the industry needs to overcome several challenges for quantum computing to become viable and, above all, reliable.

Why is Intel’s breakthrough promising?

One such challenge is in the process of manufacturing quantum chips. Industry and research centers face difficulties in developing a process that allows for scalable production.

Research carried out by Intel and QuTech makes it possible for wafers (in a nutshell, pieces of silicon in disk format that are split to make processors) aimed at quantum computing to be manufactured with optical lithography technologies that are used to produce the chips. the company’s most modern CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor).

In a celebratory mood, Intel explains that the result of this work is a process that allows a silicon wafer with a standard diameter of 300 mm to contain more than ten thousand arrays (quantum dots) of qubits whose yield is greater than 95% ( that is, at least 95% of these units are functional).

Wafer for quantum computer (image: disclosure/Intel)
Wafer for quantum computer (image: disclosure/Intel)

Here’s the reason for the celebration: Intel managed to produce a wafer for a quantum computer that can be used in almost its entirety and, at the same time, did not have to make significant changes in its production line. In theory, this makes room for the company to produce quantum and conventional chips in the same manufacturing units.

Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done before quantum computing becomes, in fact, viable. But James Clarke, director of quantum hardware at Intel, can’t hide his excitement over the latest achievement:

Our research proves that a full-scale quantum computer is not only possible, it can be produced in today’s chip factory. We look forward to continuing to work with QuTech to apply our silicon manufacturing expertise to unlock the full potential of the quantum.

Leave a Comment