Intel's new 17-qubit chip marches toward the quantum computing future

Two years ago, Intel announced a partnership worth $50 million with a company called QuTech. Together, the two committed to pushing forward with quantum computing research, but ever since then, we haven't heard much about their progress. Today that all changes, with Intel announcing the delivery of a new 17-qubit to QuTech, a move it says "demonstrates the fast progress Intel and QuTech are making in researching and developing a working quantum computing system."

For the uninitiated, the development of quantum computers would be a big step forward for the computing world. While classical computers utilize bits – which can be only one of two values – quantum computing opens the door to quantum bits (qubits), which can represent two different values at the same time through superposition, thereby solving problems much faster than classical computers can. While it's exciting idea, there a lot of roadblocks to actually producing a quantum computer – as Intel notes, ensuring the stability of qubits is one of those roadblocks.

With this new CPU, Intel has managed to package 17 qubits on a chip about the size of a quarter. Packaging is another huge aspect of quantum computing, as qubits have an operating temperature of around 20 millikelvin (about "250 times colder than deep space," Intel notes). This superconducting is chip is a big step forward not only because it houses 17 qubits, but because its packaging has been specced to withstand those ultra-low temperatures.

This isn't the first test chip Intel has delivered to QuTech, but its creation is apparently exciting enough for Intel to want it make it public, something it hasn't done much since this partnership kicked off. In the video above, you can see Intel and QuTech unbox the chip and explain the process of creating it.

So, what's next? QuTech will test each of the qubits individually, but it also wants to test performance once the qubits are entangled and working together. Later on down the road, Intel and QuTech's research will start to tackle the hardware and software needed to control a chip like this, along with the quantum applications that can take advantage of this technology. There's a long way to go before the dream of quantum computing is realized, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.