Intel's Cryogenic Horse Ridge Quantum Control Chip Gallops Into View

Intel Horse Ridge
Looking ahead, quantum computing has the potential to dramatically alter the technology landscape, though several challenges will have to be overcome for this to be a feasible reality. In an effort towards getting us there, Intel and QuTech—a partnership between Delft University of Technology and TON (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research)—outlined technical designs of a new cryogenic quantum control chip called "Horse Ridge."

Intel and QuTech will present a research paper on the topic at the 2020 International Solid State Circuits Conferences (ISSCC) in San Francisco, California. The paper addresses key technical capabilities of Horse Ridge that are designed to overcome fundamental challenges in building a quantum system that is both powerful and practical.

In terms of being practical, Intel is talking about scalability, flexibility, and fidelity.

"Today, quantum researchers work with just a small number of qubits, using smaller, custom-designed systems surrounded by complex control and interconnect mechanisms," said Jim Clarke, director of quantum hardware, Intel Labs.

"Intel’s Horse Ridge greatly minimizes this complexity. By systematically working to scale to thousands of qubits required for quantum practicality, we’re continuing to make steady progress toward making commercially viable quantum computing a reality in our future," Clarke added.

Intel Horse Ridge

Intel and QuTech essentially designed a system-on-chip (SoC) based on 22-nanometer FFL (FinFET Low Power) CMOS technology. The first-of-its-kind chip is able to operate at cryogenic temperatures. It also integrates four radio frequency (RF) channels into a single devices, with each channel capable of controlling up to 32 qubits via frequency multiplexing—a technique that divides available bandwidth into a series of non-overlapping frequency bands.

"Leveraging these four channels, Horse Ridge can potentially control up to 128 qubits with a single device, substantially reducing the number of cables and rack instrumentations previously required," Intel explains.

One of the big challenges facing quantum computing is the need for extremely cold temperatures. The control chip Intel and QuTech developed can make this easier to implement. It has the potential to replace a ton of wiring that would otherwise be needed for a quantum system housed in a cryogenic station. Or as Intel describes it, Horse Ridge "provides an elegant solution to enable control of multiple qubits with high fidelity—a major milestone on the path to quantum practicality."

Intel and QuTech are scheduled to present the technical paper at 1:30 pm PT on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.