Intel's Horse Ridge chip gallops ahead in quantum rodeo

Intel Labs has introduced its new cryogenic control chip codenamed Horse Ridge that will speed up development of full-stack quantum computing systems.

Intel's Horse Ridge chip was co-developed by Intel Labs and QuTech, a joint venture between TU Delft and TNO (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research). Quantum computing - once commercially viable - will allow a significant leap in processing performance over conventual computers due to the ability to exploit quantum bits (aka, qubits).

While Intel is now embroiled in a x86-64 processor battle with AMD, the company is also dipping its toes into the future of computing: quantum computing to be exact. A regular computer chip will not function at such temperatures, whereas the Horse Ridge chip is meant to be kept inside these and continue working. "Intel recognized that quantum controls were an essential piece of the puzzle needed to solve in order to develop a large-scale commercial quantum system", Clarke added in a statement. A typical quantum computer has hundreds of connective cables and that number is only set to rise as companies work to build bigger, better quantum machines.

The primary difference between Intel's announcements and those made by its competition is in the fact that the company's chip aims to make commercial quantum systems.

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Intel's advances with Horse Ridge are just the next step in making quantum computing a practical reality that can leap beyond the research laboratory setting. Conversely, non-classical machines use quantum bits (qubits), which can simultaneously operate as ones and zeros, to solve problems. In these efforts, researchers have relied on existing electronic tools and high-performance computing rack-scale instruments to connect the quantum system inside the cryogenic refrigerator to the traditional computational devices regulating qubit performance and programming the system.

Intel said its chip - which is named for one of the coldest spots in the US state of OR, where many of its factories are located - is created to be able to sit inside the quantum refrigerator.

On Monday, the 9th of December 2019, the American multinational chipmaker headquartered in Santa Clara, CA, in the Silicon Valley, had unveiled a chip what it claimed was created to control a quantum computer, shrinking a conventional quantum computer chip down to a size of a tea cup saucer. It translates those instructions into electromagnetic microwave pulses that can manipulate the state of the qubits. To put this in context, 4 Kelvin is only warmer than absolute zero - a temperature so cold that atoms almost stop moving. Today's quantum computers operate at the millikelvin range, a fraction above absolute zero. They must be out of the special refrigerator.

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