Quantum Computing

Intel Announces Release of ‘Tunnel Falls’, 12-Qubit Silicon Chip

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Insider Summary

  • Intel announced the release of its newest quantum research chip, Tunnel Falls, a 12-qubit silicon chip.
  • Tunnel Falls are fabricated on 300 millimeter wafers at the D1 fabrication facility.
  • The company will also make the chip available to the quantum research community.
  • Image: Chip Tunnel Falls on the finger. Silicon spin qubits are up to 1 million times smaller than other types of qubits. The Tunnel Falls chip is roughly 50nm x 50nm, potentially enabling faster scaling.

PERS CONFERENCE — Intel announced the release of its newest 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 working with the Laboratory for Physical Sciences (LPS) at the University of Maryland, Qubit Collaboratory (LQC) College Park, a national Quantum Information Sciences (QIS) Research Center, to advance quantum computing research.

“Tunnel Falls is Intel’s most advanced silicon spin qubit chip to date and leverages decades of transistor manufacturing and design expertise. This new chip release is the next step in Intel’s long-term strategy to build full-stack commercial quantum computing systems. While there are still fundamental questions and challenges to be resolved along the path to fault-tolerant quantum computers, the academic community can now explore this technology and accelerate research development.” — Jim Clarke, director of Quantum Hardware, Intel

Why It Matters: Today, academic institutions do not have high-volume manufacturing fabrication equipment like Intel. With Tunnel Falls, researchers can immediately start working on experiments and research instead of trying to build their own set. As a result, various experiments have become possible, including learning more about the fundamentals of qubits and quantum dots and developing new techniques for working with devices with multiple qubits.

To address this further, Intel is working with LQC as part of its Qubits for Computing Foundry (QCF) program through the US Army Research Office to provide Intel’s new quantum chips to research labs. The collaboration with LQC will help democratize silicon spin qubits by allowing researchers to get hands-on experience working with scaled arrays of these qubits. This initiative aims to strengthen workforce development, open doors for new quantum research, and develop the quantum ecosystem as a whole.

The first quantum laboratories participating in the program include LPS, Sandia National Laboratory, University of Rochester, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. LQC will work with Intel to make Tunnel Falls available to additional universities and research labs. Information gathered from these experiments will be shared with the community to advance quantum research and help Intel improve qubit performance and scalability.

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

“Sandia National Laboratory is thrilled to be the recipient of the Tunnel Falls chip. This device is a flexible platform that will enable quantum researchers at Sandia to directly compare different qubit encodings and develop new qubit modes of operation, which were not possible before for us,” said Dr. Dwight Luhman, leading technical staff member at Sandia National Laboratory. “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 anticipated reliability of Tunnel Falls will also allow Sandia to quickly onboard and train new staff working on silicon qubit technology.”

Mark A. Eriksson, department chair and John Bardeen Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, said, “UW-Madison researchers, with two decades of investment in silicon qubit development, are excited to partner on the LQC launch. Opportunities for students to work with industrial devices, which leverage Intel’s microelectronics expertise and infrastructure, open important opportunities for both technical advancement 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 300-millimeter wafers at the D1 fabrication facility, the 12-qubit devices leverage Intel’s most advanced transistor fabrication capabilities, such as extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) and gate and contact processing techniques. In silicon spin qubits, information (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 build it using streams similar to those used in standard complementary metal oxide semiconductor logic (CMOS) processing lines.

Intel believes silicon spin qubits are superior to other qubit technologies because of their synergy with leading transistors. Being about the size of a transistor, they are up to 1 million times smaller than other types of qubits which are around 50 nanometers squared, potentially enabling efficient scaling. According to Nature Electronics, “Silicon is perhaps the platform with the greatest potential for delivering enhanced quantum computing.”

At the same time, leveraging state-of-the-art CMOS fabrication lines enables Intel to employ innovative process control techniques to enable throughput and performance. For example, 12-qubit Tunnel Falls devices have a 95% throughput across wafers and voltage uniformity similar to CMOS logic processes, 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 operation simultaneously depending on how the university or lab operates the system.

What’s Next: Intel will continue to work to improve the performance of Tunnel Falls and integrate it into its full quantum stack with the Intel Quantum Software Development Kit (SDK). Additionally, Intel has developed a next-generation quantum chip based on Tunnel Falls; expected to be released in 2024. In the future, Intel plans to partner with additional research institutions globally to build the quantum ecosystem.

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