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Why Intel's smallest spin qubit chip could be a turning point in quantum computing

The chip, which is smaller than a pencil eraser, could lend itself to dramatic scalability for future computing scenarios.

Google takes lead in quantum computing race with new processor

Intel has officially begun testing its "Spin Qubit" chip for quantum computing, the smallest chip of its kind, the company said in a Monday press release.

The chip was created in Oregon at Intel's D1D Fab facility, "using the same silicon manufacturing techniques" the company uses to make tradition computer chips, according to the release. Using such a familiar process, and designing the chip for "dramatic" scalability, could mean that Intel is positioning itself for future growth in the quantum computing space.

The spin qubit chip's qubits are roughly 50 nanometers across, and one can view them only with the help of an electron microscope. "About 1,500 qubits could fit across the diameter of a single human hair," the release noted.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of quantum computing (Tech Pro Research)

The full chip itself is much smaller than even a pencil eraser. Intel mentioned in the release that it is "the tiniest quantum computing chip" the company has ever worked on.

Qubits is short for "quantum bits," which can replace the traditional transistors commonly found in computer chips. As noted by MIT's Technology Review, standard computers store information as 1s or 0s, but qubits can enter a state of superposition where they exist in "multiple states of 1 and 0 at the same time." As such, the use of superposition means that quantum computers can scale their power exponentially with the addition of a few qubits.

Quantum computing chips require very particular environments, though. Intel's new spin qubit chip, for example, needs a temperature of "roughly 460 degrees below zero Fahrenheit - 250 times colder than space," to operate effectively.

Companies like Microsoft, Alphabet, and IBM are also working on similar chips, battling for quantum supremacy. As their work continues to advance, it could create serious headway in the race toward commercially-viable quantum computing.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Intel has revealed its new spin qubit chip for quantum computing, the tiniest chip it has ever produced for such work.
  • The battle for quantum supremacy among Intel, IBM, Alphabet, Microsoft, and others could lead to commercially-viable quantum computing.

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This article was originally published on TechRepublic.