Intel has made a new quantum computer control chip

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Intel's Horse Ridge quantum computing control chip.
Image: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation

On Monday, Reuters reported Intel had developed a new cryogenic control chip designed for use with quantum computers. The corporation intends for the component to replace the elaborate bundle of wires that controls most contemporary non-classical computers. Indeed, the firm said its new semiconductor, dubbed Horse Ridge, is a significant step toward “quantum practicality.”

Why Intel’s Horse Ridge is Important

Conventional computers, including consumer laptops or military supercomputers, use binary bits to perform calculations. Conversely, non-classical machines use quantum bits (qubits), which can simultaneously operate as ones and zeros, to solve problems. As such, platforms that harness the power of several sequenced qubits have exponential processing capability.

The problem is scientists and programmers have to chill contemporary quantum computers to near zero for them to function. Therefore, manufacturers have to encase them in large cooling units and connect them to control systems via a series of insulated wires. Intel’s new kitchen napkin-sized Horse Ridge chip can now make non-classical machines more compact and integrated.

The mixed-signal system-on-a-chip controls refrigerated qubits via radio transmission. It can also operate at 4 kelvin, 7 Fahrenheit degrees warmer than absolute zero. As such, the component bypasses the cooling problems that mar current quantum computation. Once integrated into existing systems, Horse Ridge will allow engineers to simplify their non-conventional machines and scale them up.

The Quantum Computing Revolution

In the last year, a few tech giants have unveiled quantum computers that promise unheralded new degrees of computational power.

At CES 2019, IBM debuted its first commercial quantum computer, which is called the Q System One. The corporation noted its machine utilizes 50 qubits to process datasets. The legacy brand notes its system can revolutionize the financial, pharmaceutical, and meteorological sectors once integrated with classical platforms.

In October, Google announced it had developed a new chipset that allowed its machine to achieve quantum supremacy. The firm published a paper noting its 53 qubit system could solve mathematical problems in seconds that classical computers would need 10,000 years to answer.

Most recently, Amazon began offering its web services customers access to cloud-based quantum computation systems earlier this month. Accordingly, its client businesses, universities, and research organizations can now virtually design and test quantum algorithms.

Unfortunately, as amazing as all those breakthroughs have been, they lack functionality. Presently, researchers use quantum computers to perform esoteric calculations with little practical application. However, thanks to the work of innovative chipmakers like Intel, the quantum computing revolution may occur sooner rather than later.

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