Intel Corp has decided to take a break from conventional electronics and instead join the race for the development of Quantum computers aimed at finding solutions to problems that are way beyond the reach of hardware available these days. According to the chip giant, around $50 million will be invested in a 10-year collaboration of the company with an institute in the Netherlands called QuTech, which was formed in 2013 by the Dutch Organization for Applied Research and Delft University of Technology. It is also in the plans of the company to accelerate developments and innovations in the field by offering its own engineering resources.
For decades, scientists have been attempting to apply quantum physics to decades with researchers at numerous renowned companies such as Google Inc., Microsoft Corp and International Business Machines Corp also working in the field actively. The term quantum is used for defining matter’s unusual properties at the subatomic scale. These properties can only be observed when materials are cooled to temperatures that approach minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit or absolute zero. Binary digits are used by conventional computers, which means data is expressed as either 0 or 1. Alternatives have been explored by researchers using qubits or quantum bits, which can represent a 0 and 1 simultaneously.
Another connected goal is to make qubits reach an entangled state as called by scientists where they remain physically apart, but act as if they are connected. If that becomes possible, proponents have said that quantum computers would be able to carry out a lot more calculations at the same time as opposed to most of the fastest computers of today. Intel’s participation in the field is noteworthy because of its financial heft and also its vested interest in conventional computers. The company is focused on production processes that can incorporate more semiconductors on silicon chips.
In 2014, Intel spent about $11.5 billion on research and development. However, it is getting harder to achieve progress through miniaturization and may eventually run out of steam completely. A two-year cadence has been used by Intel for introducing new production recipes, but the company said in July that the future pattern would be around 2.5 years. A vice president of Intel who heads the company’s research in future technologies, Mike Mayberry decided to wade into the field after he saw the progress recently made in quantum technology. He said that Intel sees ways of solving some hurdles such as correcting errors that occur due to electrical interference or processing signals generated by qubits.
A former IBM researcher, Chad Rigetti, who is now head of quantum computing startup Rigetti Computing said that Intel is a bit late in arriving to this field and their partnership with QuTech will allow them to catch up. QuTech and Intel are especially interested in applying quantum technology to problems like simulating the behavior and structure of molecules, which currently isn’t feasible. An ordinary computer is unable to solve these problems because a lot of materials are complex and their properties cannot be understood properly.