New York-based quantum computer startup SEEQC said on Wednesday it has developed a digital chip that can operate at temperatures colder than outer space so it can be used with quantum processors that are often in cryogenic chambers.
Quantum computers, based on quantum physics, have the potential one day to complete some calculations millions of times faster than the most powerful supercomputer today.
One challenge is that quantum processors with quantum bits, or qubits, often need to be stored at very cold temperatures near zero Kelvin, or -273.15 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, classical computers operate in more moderate temperatures.
But the two need to be paired as information from the quantum processors is measured in wave form and must be digitised into ones and zeros for classical computers used to control and access the qubits.
Today wires connect the quantum processor in the freezing chamber to classical computers in room temperature, but the temperature change can slow the speed and cause other issues. SEEQC has also built its quantum computer this way and is now trying to modify it with its new chips.
“If you’re trying to build a data center, if that’s your goal, then it’s not enough to take these kind of early prototype designs and try to scale them on a brute force manner,” John Levy, co-founder and CEO of SEEQC, told Reuters.
The first chip it unveiled Wednesday sits directly under the quantum processor and controls the qubits, and reads out the results.
At least two other chips still under development will be in a slightly warmer part of the cryogenic chamber. These could further process information needed for quantum computing.
The technology could make it easier to build more powerful quantum computers as each cryogenic chamber would be able to support a larger number of qubits, said Levy. Today’s superconducting quantum computers have hundreds of qubits, but some estimate thousands, or even a million could be needed to create a quantum computer to run useful algorithms.
The SEEQC digital chips are made at SEEQC’s fabrication facility in Elmsford using silicon wafers but do not use transistors, Levy said.
SEEQC was founded in 2018 and has raised a total of $30 million from investors including Merck’s M Ventures and LG Tech Ventures.