Intel is sending mysterious quantum hardware to a national lab

Intel sees quantum computing as the next step beyond today’s CPUs and GPUs, and this week took a step forward in delivering such a system.

The chipmaker is sending quantum computing hardware to the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), where it will fit into a real-world quantum system being built at the ANL.

“The Intel coin will be the first major component installed in the Argonne Quantum Foundry, which will serve as a factory to create and test new quantum materials and devices. It is expected to be completed this year,” the national lab said.

And this is where things get interesting. It is not known exactly what the equipment is.

While we await further confirmation of what the quantum device is (and isn’t), it’s worth remembering that Intel has fabricated samples of its 22nm quantum chips called Horse Ridge I and II. The chip uses mixed-signal ICs to control qubits and generate readouts, with the ability to scale to more qubits.

Intel and ANL could not provide specific quantum equipment details at the time of publication.

Dozens of companies are building quantum systems ranging from realistic to straight out of science fiction. D-Wave’s quantum annealing system is already in use for specific applications, while IBM’s and Google’s systems require cooling to a fraction of the temperature of deep space. PsiQuantum is building a data center-sized mega-quantum computer. Microsoft is suing a particle-based quantum computer whose existence has yet to be proven.

Intel believes its qubit approach is best because quantum hardware can be manufactured in its existing factories. Quantum competitors, such as Rigetti, also tout quantum systems that don’t require any special manufacturing equipment, compared to quantum system makers like annealing device maker D-Wave, for example, that require manufacturing plants. and specialized production to produce Machines.

The Quantum ANL System is part of a private-public collaborative effort called Q-NEXT to boost quantum computing and communication in the United States. Beyond test applications, the system will also help test new quantum materials and devices.

Could Intel Help US National Labs Retain an Edge?

Compared to China, the United States has been slow to make quantum computing a priority. Researchers have complained that Uncle Sam hasn’t done enough to facilitate collaboration and bridge the gap between educators, developers, and scientists involved in algorithms and hardware development.

Additionally, activity around the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQI), which was enacted in 2018 to boost development and research in quantum computing, has stalled. But there are plenty of investment dollars coming from venture capital and government to advance quantum computers and basic science in the United States, said Carl Dukatz, quantum program manager at Accenture. The register.

Last year, Rigetti went public with a $1.5 billion SPAC megadeal, and quantum computing startups raised another $1 billion in venture capital funding, according to PitchBook data.

D-Wave announced earlier this year that it would go public through a $1.2 billion merger with a SPAC.

Companies developing quantum systems add layers of abstraction that make those systems accessible to a wider audience to explore and test, Dukatz said.

“I think it’s similar to how AI or machine learning or big data systems evolved. For a while you had Hadoop and you needed people who understood data science and could writing MapReduce code. Then ultimately a set of services on top of Hadoop made it more accessible to people who could write SQL, and that abstraction made it more viable for businesses,” Dukatz said.

This abstraction should happen for quantum computing. That’s handy because, on the one hand, the kind of interest companies have in qubit computers also really depends on who’s asking the questions: if it’s the science and research department, those people want to get their hands on it. on the exact operation of the equipment. If it’s on the business side, they want to know how the computer can be used. The availability of abstractions to run workloads on quantum computing systems is essential for this latter group and for the broader success of the technology.

“Yes [queries are] coming from IT or the business itself, then it can be more results-oriented,” said Accenture’s Dukatz. “If it’s coming from the chemistry side or the basic research side of a company, then they can look deeper.

“If it’s an R&D department talking to us, they want to know the physics behind how the device works in addition to knowing what device to use. They want to understand the science behind it, whereas other companies may say that they’re really only interested in the outcome.” ®

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