Intel pledges US$50 million for quantum computing research

Intel quantum computing research

Company pledges ten years worth of funding to Dutch research unit QuTech, worth $5 million per year

We're a long way from a finished quantum computer – over a decade, Intel reckons. But that hasn't stopped the company promising US$50 million of funding to Dutch research unit QuTech in order to speed along the process.

The funding will be provided over ten years, and allow QuTech, based at the University of Delft, to fund more staff and equipment to make quantum computing a reality.
So what is quantum computing? Quantum computers differ from traditional models, as they are composed of qubits that can contain multiple values at the same time, making them a world away from current computers with store bits in either 0s or 1s. In short, it'll make them far more effective at complex computations such as molecular modelling and decryption.

As you might imagine, it's a hugely complex problem. As Intel CEO Brian Krzanich explained in an open letter announcing the funding:  “How do we connect thousands of quantum bits, or qubits, together? How can we control them? How can we reliably fabricate, connect and control many more qubits? Even measuring qubit signals is going to require an entirely new class of low-temperature electronics that don't exist today.”

Indeed. Current quantum computing systems consist of just a handful of qubits – far from the thousands that would make a system practical. But as Krzanich hints at, this kind of scale needs incredible cooling solutions – the quantum behaviour of the materials need a temperature of around -270°C.

The rewards could be great, however. Or as Krzanich puts it: “Quantum computing holds the promise of solving complex problems that are practically insurmountable today, changing the world for the better. That's a technology I think we'll all be incredibly proud to play a part in developing.”

Quantum computing could change a lot of things – for one thing, some believe it could have the unintended consequence of making modern encryption obsolete – but we're still a long way off. With Intel's help, though, perhaps we're significantly closer than we were yesterday.

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