Intel has unveiled its first processor for quantum computers, the Tunnel Falls chip, which is now available to external parties. The chip offers up to 12 qubits and will be distributed to US universities and research labs for further study. While other projects in the field are focusing on quantum computers based on superconductors, Intel is championing the use of semiconductor silicon for its processors. This gives Intel an advantage in production as it can leverage its expertise in manufacturing processors. Additionally, the qubits in the Tunnel Falls chip are much smaller than those in superconductors, which should allow for easier scaling. However, Intel has not provided detailed information on the performance of the qubits in the chip. The company believes it will take another 10 to 15 years before large-scale implementation of quantum computers brings commercial benefits to users.
The Tunnel Falls chip is produced by Intel using advanced EUV manufacturing technology, which is also used in the production of PC processors in the Intel 4 manufacturing process. The chip features silicon qubits that map data using the “spin” of a single trapped electron in modified transistors. Each qubit device acts as a one-electron transistor, enabling Intel to fabricate it using a similar process to standard CMOS logic processing.
In terms of size, a single Tunnel Falls chip is only a few square millimeters in size, smaller than a fingertip. Intel can manufacture 24,000 chips with a single 300 mm silicon wafer, which means they can easily meet the needs of research institutions without requiring mass production. Due to a low defect rate, almost all the chips on a wafer should be operational.
Overall, Intel’s introduction of the Tunnel Falls chip marks a significant milestone in the development of quantum computers. While commercial benefits are still years away, Intel’s focus on semiconductor silicon and its manufacturing expertise positions the company for future success in the field.