Computing giant coughs up to ensure development of next generation processing technology
Intel is to invest $50m (£33m) in quantum computing research; the much touted technology that promises a breakthrough in processing power compared to conventional computer systems.
The computing giant will be investing the money over the next ten years with QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and TNO (the Dutch Organisation for Applied Research).
Intel says it will also dedicate “significant engineering resources” to advance research efforts.
Quantum computing promises a major breakthrough for computers. At the moment, the most well known commercial quantum computer company is D-Wave, which has sold some of its designs to clients including Google and NASA.
Quantum computing is seen by some as the next step forward for computers when analysing large quantities of data. Indeed, Quantum computers offer a massive improvement over conventional computers because they make use of the fact that quantum systems exist in multiple states at the same time, an effect made famous by Schrodinger’s cat paradox, in which a cat sealed in a box away from all interactions can be simultaneously alive and dead.
A quantum system interacts with information using quantum bits or ‘qubits’, which can mean both ‘1’ and’0’ simultaneously. Quantum computers can process multiple inputs at the same time – effectively in parallel universes – and determine the right answer to problems which have a huge numbers of possible solutions, as long as their qubits can be kept in a coherent state, isolated from the outside world.
So for example, the theory is that a quantum computer will be able to do tasks that are impossible today, such as large-scale financial analysis and more effective drug development.
“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,” said Mike Mayberry, Intel VP and managing director of Intel Labs.
Intel intends to extend the university’s physics expertise and diverse quantum computing research efforts by contributing advanced manufacturing, electronics and architectural expertise.
“Expertise in specialised electronics combined with advanced physics is required to move quantum computing closer to being a reality,” said Mayberry. “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. Our collaboration with QuTech will explore quantum computing breakthroughs that could influence the industry overall.”
“In the next five to 10 years, progress in quantum computing will increasingly require the combination of excellent science with high-level engineering,” said lead scientist Lieven Vandersypen from QuTech. “For the realisation of complex circuits containing large numbers of quantum bits, the know-how from the semiconductor industry is essential, and QuTech is thrilled to partner with the leading semiconductor company in the world.”
Indeed, last year Google announced that it was entering the field of quantum computing, after its Quantum Artificial Intelligence team partnered with a research team from the University of California at Santa Barbara, California.
Microsoft meanwhile had already set up a laboratory dedicated to producing quantum computers. Microsoft’s Station Q, based at the University of California, Santa Barbara will work on ways to construct machines with multiple quantum bits (qubits).
In December 2013, the British government announced it would invest £270 million over the next five years, on five Quantum Technology Centres, which will aim to develop commercial applications for the ideas that are gaining traction in the academic community.
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