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At the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco this week, Intel is unveiling a cryogenic chip designed to accelerate the development of the quantum computers they are building with Delft University’s QuTech research group. The chip, called Horse Ridge for one of the coldest spots in Oregon, uses specially-designed transistors to provide microwave control signals to Intel’s quantum computing chips.

The quantum computer chips in development at IBM, Google, Intel, and other firms today operate at fractions of a degree above absolute zero and must be kept inside a dilution refrigerator. However, as companies have managed to increase the number of quantum bits (qubits) in the chips, and therefore the chips’ capacity to compute, they’ve begun to run into a problem. Each qubit needs its own set of wires leading to control and readout systems outside of the cryogenic container. It’s already getting crowded and as quantum computers continue to scale—Intel’s is up to 49 qubits now—there soon won’t be enough room for the wires.   

“Ultimately the goal is to minimize the number of wires into the fridge,” says Jim Clarke, director of quantum hardware at Intel. “Intel recognized that quantum controls were an essential piece of the puzzle we needed to solve in order to develop a large-scale commercial quantum system.” The solution is to bring as many of the control and readout electronics into the fridge, perhaps even integrating them onto the qubit chip itself.

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