Intel has claimed a breakthrough in quantum computing, inventing a spin qubit fabrication flow on its 300mm process technology using isotopically pure wafers - essentially, quantum processors.
The development is intended to tackle problems that today's conventional computers can't handle, using quantum computing to speed advancements in areas like chemistry or drug development, financial modeling, and even climate forecasting.
One way of doing this is through superconducting qubits, and thus the company is making fast progress in developing this type of test chip, which others in the industry and academia are also pursuing.
That's how the firm arrived to the invention of this alternative structure, called "spin qubits", which draws on the company's expertise manufacturing silicon transistors. Spin qubits operate in silicon and could help overcome some of the scientific hurdles to take quantum computing from research to reality.
They resemble the semiconductor electronics and transistors as we know them today, delivering quantum power by leveraging the spin of a single electron on a silicon device and controlling the movement with tiny, microwave pulses.
The breakthrough is a result of Intel's collaborative research program which it initiated in 2015 with the goal of developing a commercially viable quantum computing system.
Sourced specifically for the production of spin-qubit test chips and fabricated in the same facility as Intel's advanced transistor technologies, Intel's newly developed isotopically pure wafers are expected to be produced on a weekly basis from now on, each with thousands of small qubit arrays. But the chip giant states that while there's been significant progress, quantum computing research is still nascent.
"The industry is at mile one in a marathon, and to realise this new computing paradigm, many problems must be solved and many architectural decisions must be made," the company said in a blog post.
"For example, it's not yet clear what form quantum processors (or ‘qubits') will take. That's why [we are] placing two major research bets and investing in them equally."
Nevertheless, the breakthrough comes as Quantum Computing research centre QuTech plans to present on its success creating a two-qubit spin-based quantum computer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.
With the ability to be programmed to perform two simple quantum algorithms, Intel said this development paves the way to larger spin-based processors capable of more complex applications, like these new spin qubit fabrication developments happening at Intel.
Going forward, Intel and QuTech said they will continue research on both superconducting and spin qubits across the entire quantum system, from qubit devices to the hardware and software architecture required to control these devices as well as quantum applications.
"All of these elements are essential to advancing quantum computing from research to reality," Intel said.
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