Intel to invest $ 50 million in quantum computing research

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Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today issued an open letter pledging to spend $ 50 million on long-term quantum computing research. The processor giant has partnered with TU Delft, the largest and oldest Dutch public technical university, and will work with QuTech, TU Delft’s quantum research institute. Intel is also committed to dedicating its own resources and engineers to solving quantum computing problems.

It may seem strange to see Intel pouring so much money into quantum computing research, given that D-Wave’s systems have been tested and extensively verified as being quantum computers. D-Wave devices, however, have significant limitations. The number of Qubits has grown fairly quickly, but the total number of connections between Qubits has not increased at the same rate – and it is the connections between Qubits that dictate the complexity and nature of the problems that the computer can actually do. to resolve. D-Wave systems are loosely connected, which greatly simplifies routing and construction, but also limits actual computer use cases.

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D-Wave devices are a type of quantum computer, called annealing, but they are not the only type of quantum computer that could be theoretically built, nor universally the best for each type of potential task. The challenges of building these devices, however, are considerable. Because quantum computing is extremely easy to disrupt, D-Wave uses liquid nitrogen to cool its hardware. Intel has not indicated what kind of devices it wants to study, but quantum computing at room temperature is not possible (at least, not to our knowledge).

So these types of computers are not the kind of hardware that fits into a smartphone or that you’re likely to have sitting on your desk. In some ways, a functioning quantum computer would resemble hardware from the 1950s and 1960s – huge facilities with huge power requirements, fixed locations, and high operating costs. The reason Intel and other manufacturers are so interested in building them anyway is that quantum computers can be used to solve some problems that are so devilishly difficult that it would take billions or billions of years to get there. respond with precision using traditional transistors and advanced technologies. equipment.

Quantum computing

Even if you think Moore’s Law will regain force at some point, the timescales involved make conventional transistors unsuitable for the task. As the infographic provided by Intel above points out, there are also a number of other specialized applications for quantum computing, such as theoretically unbreakable cryptography (with the side effect that any existing cryptographic scheme can be trivially shattered by large-scale quantum computing.

As the first quantum computers come online, we’re starting to get a feel for how quickly they can operate and what kinds of problems they solve best. Ars Technica recently covered recent updates on ongoing efforts to compare D-Wave systems that illustrate how understanding How? ‘Or’ What a quantum computer works, and the types of answers it can provide dramatically change the way we compare and test such systems. Ongoing research into the practical systems we can build today will guide future work on the blue sky projects of tomorrow. As Krzanich notes, “Fifty years ago, when Gordon Moore first published his famous article, postulating that the number of transistors on a chip would double every year (thereafter every two years), no one never thought we would ever put more than 8 billion of them on a single piece of silicon. It would have been unimaginable in 1965, yet 50 years later at Intel, we do it every day. “

The physics of liquid nitrogen makes it unlikely that we will have quantum smartphones in 50 years, but that doesn’t mean quantum hardware won’t push the boundaries of human knowledge and our understanding of the universe. .

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