Intel’s new chip to advance research on silicon spin qubits for quantum computing

Intel is providing university and federal research laboratories with a new quantum chip to grow the quantum computing research community.

What’s new: Today, Intel announced the release of its new quantum research chip, Tunnel Falls, a 12-qubit silicon chip, and is making the chip available to the quantum research community. In addition, Intel is collaborating with the University of Maryland Laboratory for Physical Sciences (LPS), College Parks Qubit Collaboratory (LQC), a nationwide Quantum Information Sciences (QIS) research center, to advance computer science research quantum.

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One photo shows one of Intel's Tunnel Falls chips on a human finger to show its size.  Spin qubits in silicon are up to 1 million times smaller than other types of qubits.  The Tunnel Falls chip measures approximately 50 nanometers squared, potentially allowing for faster scaling.  (Credit: Intel Corporation)

One photo shows one of Intel’s Tunnel Falls chips on a human finger to show its size. Spin qubits in silicon are up to 1 million times smaller than other types of qubits. The Tunnel Falls chip measures approximately 50 nanometers squared, potentially allowing for faster scaling. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Tunnel Falls is Intel’s most advanced silicon spin qubit chip to date, and it draws on the company’s decades of transistor design and manufacturing experience. The release of the new chip is the next step in Intel’s long-term strategy to build a full-stack commercial quantum computing system. While there are still fundamental questions and challenges that need to be resolved along the path to a fault-tolerant quantum computer, the academic community can now explore this technology and accelerate research development.

Jim Clarke, director of Quantum Hardware, Intel

Because matter: Currently, academic institutions lack high-volume manufacturing manufacturing equipment like Intel. With Tunnel Falls, researchers can immediately start working on experiments and research instead of trying to make their own devices. As a result, a wider range of experiments becomes possible, including learning more about the fundamentals of qubits and quantum dots, and developing new techniques for working with devices with multiple qubits.

To further address this issue, Intel is partnering with LQC under the Qubits for Computing Foundry (QCF) program through the US Army Research Office to provide Intel’s new quantum chip to research labs. The collaboration with LQC will help democratize spin qubits in silicon by allowing researchers to gain hands-on experience working with scaled arrays of these qubits. The initiative aims to strengthen workforce development, open doors to new quantum research, and grow the entire quantum ecosystem.

Early quantum labs to participate in the program include LPS, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Rochester and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. LQC will work with Intel to make Tunnel Falls available to other universities and research labs. Information gleaned from these experiments will be shared with the community to advance quantum research and help Intel improve qubit performance and scalability.

The LPS Qubit Collaboratory, in partnership with the Army Research Office, seeks to address the difficult challenges facing qubit development and develop the next generation of scientists who will create tomorrow’s qubits, said Charles Tahan, head of Quantum Information Science, LPS. Intel’s participation is an important milestone in democratizing the exploration of spin qubits and their promise for quantum information processing, and exemplifies LQC’s mission to bring together industry, academia, national laboratories, and government.

Sandia National Laboratories Distinguished Engineering Staff Dr. Dwight Luhman said, “Sandia National Laboratories is thrilled to receive the Tunnel Falls chip. The device is a flexible platform that allows Sandia quantum researchers to directly compare different qubit encodings and develop new modes of operation of qubits, which was previously not possible for us. This level of sophistication allows us to innovate new quantum operations and algorithms in the multi-qubit regime and accelerate our learning rate in silicon-based quantum systems. The projected reliability of Tunnel Falls will also allow Sandia to rapidly onboard and train new personnel working in silicon qubit technologies.

Mark A. Eriksson, department chair and John Bardeen Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the UW-Madison researchers, with two decades of investment in developing silicon qubits, are very excited to collaborate in the launch of the LQC. The opportunity for students to work with industrial devices, which benefit from Intel’s microelectronics infrastructure and expertise, opens up important opportunities for both technical advances and for education and workforce development.

About Tunnel Falls: Tunnel Falls is Intel’s first silicon spin qubit device released to the research community. Fabricated on a 300-millimeter wafer in the D1 fabrication facility, the 12-qubit device leverages Intel’s most advanced industrial transistor fabrication capabilities, such as extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, gate and contact processing techniques. In silicon spin qubits, information (the 0/1) is encoded in the spin (up/down) of a single electron. Each qubit device is essentially a single-electron transistor, which allows Intel to manufacture it using flux similar to that used in a standard Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) logic processing line.

Intel believes silicon spin qubits are superior to other qubit technologies due to their synergy with cutting-edge transistors. Being the size of a transistor, they are up to 1 million times smaller than other types of qubits measuring about 50 nanometers by 50 nanometers, potentially allowing for efficient scaling. According to Nature Electronics, silicon may be the platform with the greatest potential to deliver large-scale quantum computing.

At the same time, the use of advanced CMOS manufacturing lines allows Intel to use innovative process control techniques to enable throughput and performance. For example, the 12-qubit Tunnel Falls device has an efficiency of 95% across the wafer and voltage uniformity similar to a CMOS logic process, and each wafer provides more than 24,000 quantum dot devices. These 12-point chips can form four to 12 qubits that can be isolated and used in operations simultaneously depending on how the university or lab runs its systems.

What’s next: Intel will continuously work to improve the performance of Tunnel Falls and integrate it into its full quantum stack with the Intel Quantum Software Development Kit (SDK). Also, Intel is already developing its next generation quantum chip based on Tunnel Falls; it is expected to be released in 2024. In the future, Intel plans to collaborate with other research institutions globally to build the quantum ecosystem.

Other context: Intel Labs Quantum Computing Backgrounder | Intel Labs (press kit) | Intel Quantum Researchers Introduce Tunnel Falls Silicon Qubit Research Chip (Video) | Intel Introduces Tunnel Falls Silicon Qubit Research Chip (Video) | Quantum Computing Lab in Oregon (extra video)

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Laura Stadler


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Source: Intel Corporation

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