Intel Makes New Quantum Chip Available to Research Community
Tunnel Falls removes barriers to entry for quantum research by leveraging traditional transistor processes for high-yield fabrication.
Intel recently announced the release of its Tunnel Falls quantum computing chip built to enable next-generation research into quantum computing and quantum algorithms. The Tunnel Falls chip will be made available to the quantum research community to increase the breadth of ongoing quantum research, a field that can come with significant learning curves.
Using Intel’s most advanced fabrication techniques, the Tunnel Falls chip (package shown above) gives researchers a commercial solution for quantum computing. Image used courtesy of Intel
The newest Intel chip is expected to enable researchers to spend more time on novel and impactful quantum research without having to spend valuable time developing low-quantity and low-yield quantum fabrication processes. By leveraging Intel’s high-volume production line, researchers can take advantage of reliably-made quantum chips to expedite their research.
Since generally-available quantum chips are still quite new, this article takes a closer look at Intel’s Tunnel Falls chip to see how it works, how it’s made, and how designers could one day benefit from the large-scale adoption of quantum computing.
Silicon Spin Qubits
Each Tunnel Falls chip contains a total of 12 qubits, each of which acts as a “single electron” transistor. Where these qubits differ from traditional bits, however, is that the encoded information is no longer limited to a 0 or 1 but rather a superposition of states. According to Intel Labs, this superposition of states uses quantum dynamics to allow complex calculations to be performed.
Intel’s Tunnel Falls chip can control up to 12 single electrons, allowing simple quantum operations and algorithms to be evaluated without needing custom fabrication. Image used courtesy of Intel
Intel’s 12-qubit device leverages the spin of electrons to encode the quantum information, with each of the 12 qubits being programmable. Currently, 12 qubits are sufficient for basic research on quantum computing, but future systems will likely require thousands of qubits to accomplish the computing tasks necessary.
By using other quantum operations, such as entanglement, quantum computers can theoretically solve a variety of high-performance computing problems. Even so, they aren’t poised to replace digital computing anytime soon. Rather, they will likely be used in tandem with traditional computers to solve various complex computing tasks.
Tunnel Falls leverages Intel’s existing advanced CMOS fabrication lines with some modifications. The preliminary benchmarks for Tunnel Falls’ yield are remarkable, with a reported 95% yield on a 300 mm wafer. This high yield will ultimately allow Intel to fabricate a higher number of devices and enable more quantum research.
The Tunnel Falls chip alongside electronic components highlights the chip’s ease of integration compared with existing methods. Image used courtesy of Intel
Intel’s CMOS-like fabrication approach to silicon-based quantum computing may ultimately allow for quantum and digital devices to be integrated on the same chip. Similar to Oxford Ionics’ goal to integrate qubits and control hardware in silicon, Intel’s adoption of a silicon-based quantum process could promote synergistic growth of both the quantum and HPC fields, each benefiting from the other.
Intel's advances may ultimately benefit even those who will never see a quantum computer. Performance increases in HPC will enable new design techniques and expedite research and development, while the integration with silicon technology brings new options for researchers developing new quantum algorithms.
The Tunnel Falls chip is a small and high-volume solution for researchers developing quantum algorithms or integrating quantum technology with silicon devices. Image used courtesy of Intel
Considering other advances, such as Intel’s Cryoprober, it seems quantum computing is being developed extremely quickly. So, while Intel still predicts a 10-to-15-year period before quantum sees a large-scale implementation, if the momentum toward complementary quantum and digital computing continues, the benefits of quantum technology may arrive even sooner.