Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Intel begins developing silicon-based spin qubits for quantum computing

Intel begins developing silicon-based spin qubits for quantum computing

Superposition, the process where something can exist in multiple states at once, is what makes quantum computing so potentially powerful. However, they deliver quantum power by leveraging the spin of a single electron on a silicon device and controlling the movement to create tiny microwave pulses.

Intel initiated a collaborative research programme in 2015, with the goal of developing a commercially viable quantum computing system.

Spin qubits highly resemble the semiconductor electronics and transistors as we know them on CPUs today.

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.

Such bulky machines are hardly ideal for making quantum computing appeal to the commercial and consumer world. The other group, made up of a team of physicists at Princeton, reported that they were able to pair photons to electron spins, which could lead to the advent of larger quantum computers in the future.

Electrons can spin in different directions.

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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.

QuTech researchers, now working in partnership with Intel, were able to perform some quantum algorithms, including the well-known Grover search algorithm (basically, they could search through a list of four things).

The design of spin qubit processors is very similar to traditional silicon transistor technologies, which Intel has the equipment and infrastructure to manufacture. They offer several advantages over superconducting qubits, Intel noted: They are much smaller in physical size, and easier to scale, and can function at higher temperatures than superconducting qubits.

Intel is now testing the initial wafers for a spin qubit fabrication flow (pictured top). This will reduce the complexity of the system required to allow these chips to operate. Quantum computers, on the other hand, use "qubits" - quantum bits that take on the two values simultaneously during calculations. Previously we have seen Intel reveal and discuss progress in its superconducting qubit chip design.

"All of these elements are essential to advancing quantum computing from research to reality", Intel said.

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