New Delhi: Chipmaker Intel has announced a new chip codenamed “Horse Ridge", which is meant to make quantum computing commercially viable. The company claims the chip will allow companies to control multiple qubits and “set a clear path toward scaling future systems to larger qubit counts".
What the company is essentially claiming here is that it will take away the wires and complex machinery involved with quantum computing. While many have made advancements in this direction, quantum computers usually come with huge setups with lots of wires. That makes it virtually impossible to scale these computers for commercial use, even if one can control multiple qubits, which is the core element of such computers.
A qubit (or quantum bit) is the fundamental component of a quantum computer. It’s the quantum version of the bit, which is the primary element of modern computing. However, while traditional bits exist in two states (0 and 1), quantum bits aren’t limited to that and can hence be a million times more powerful.
There’s a clue in the nomenclature of Intel’s chip itself. Horse Ridge is a place in Oregon, a state in the United States. It is amongst the coldest areas in the country, which is a reference to refrigeration required for quantum computers to function correctly and consistently.
While most computer chips generate heat while they’re operational, qubits are far more powerful than regular computing machinery. As a result, they need to be kept at sub-zero temperatures, which is done using special refrigeration. 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.
“While there has been a lot of emphasis on the qubits themselves, the ability to control many qubits at the same time had been a challenge for industry," said Jim Clarke, Director of Quantum Hardware at Intel. “With Horse Ridge, Intel has developed a scalable control system that will allow us to significantly speed up testing and realise the potential of quantum computing," he added.
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. For instance, Google’s recent announcement in this space spoke about how its new quantum computer was nearly 10,000 times faster than today’s fastest supercomputer.
Unlike other cases, Intel is claiming “quantum practicality" here, which is a benchmark against which the “quantum research community can determine whether a quantum system can delivery game-changing performance to solve real-world problems".