Intel Corporation announced Thursday that it will invest $50 million over the next 10 years into research on quantum computing. In a statement, the technology giant said that it will partner with the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, and TNO -- the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research -- to “accelerate advancements” in the field.
“A fully functioning quantum computer is at least a dozen years away, but the practical and theoretical research efforts we’re announcing today mark an important milestone in the journey to bring it closer to reality,” Mike Mayberry, Intel vice president and managing director of Intel Labs, said, in the statement. “Expertise in specialized electronics combined with advanced physics is required to move quantum computing closer to being a reality.”
The development of quantum computers capable of performing operations many orders of magnitude faster than conventional computers has been a goal of computer scientists and physicists ever since the idea was first floated in the early 1980s. However, given the inherently unstable nature of “qubits” -- the quantum computing equivalents of bits -- the goal has remained out of reach.
Quantum computers utilize two basic properties of qubits -- superposition and entanglement. Unlike conventional bits, which can exist in one of two states, 0 and 1, qubits can exist in superposition, allowing them to have both states at the same time. Superposition coupled with quantum entanglement -- wherein they are physically separate but act as if they are connected -- is what gives quantum computers a significant advantage over conventional computers.
However, these qubits only hold their state when they are kept in extremely cold conditions -- at a few degrees above absolute zero.
“While qubit development has been the focus of quantum computing research to date, low-temperature electronics will be required to connect, control and measure multiple qubits, and this is where we can contribute,” Mayberry said, in the statement. “Our collaboration with QuTech [the quantum research institute of Delft University] will explore quantum computing breakthroughs that could influence the industry overall.”
Intel is not the only tech giant preparing for what has been called the next great leap in computing.
In April, IBM announced that it had created a square qubit circuit design that would help researchers find a way to detect and measure errors -- a key hurdle in creation of viable quantum computers. Earlier, in March, a team of scientists from Google and the University of California, Santa Barbara, said, in a paper published in the journal Nature, that they had devised a new technique that would allow some of the qubits to check their neighbors for errors without injecting new mistakes in the process.