Global chipmaker Intel has lifted the wraps off its Tunnel Falls 12-qubit silicon-based chip, which it says “marks the next step toward building a full-stack commercial quantum computing system.”

This is a move that represents the company’s first silicon spin qubit device that it has released to the research community, so while it may not be a full production chip destined for quantum computers near you anytime soon, it’s a significant milestone in the company’s timeline for commercializing the future technology.

With Tunnel Falls, Intel hopes that specific “research partners” can get to work on, well, research, rather than having to focus on developing their own devices. The company also calls out academic institutions for simply not having the “high-volume manufacturing fabrication equipment” that it does.

Intel is one step closer to commercializing quantum computing

The company highlights that “qubits can simultaneously operate in multiple states enabling unprecedented levels of parallelism and computing efficiency,” making them perfectly suited to high-performance computing in sectors like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

Silicon spin qubits like Tunnel Falls work by encoding information (0s and 1s) during the spin of a single electron, which Intel says makes them superior to other rival qubit technologies because of their synergy with transistors. 

The chipmaker said: “Being the size of a transistor, they are up to 1 million times smaller than other qubit types measuring approximately 50 nanometers by 50 nanometers,” which is hoped to unlock efficient scaling potential.

This example serves as an indicator of Intel’s direction, and already it is working on a next-generation quantum chip which is said to be based on Tunnel Falls, which should be with us as soon as 2024.

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