(HPC.Wire) Intel’s cryoprober is critical in the company’s ongoing quantum computing research. The promise of quantum computing is to tackle enormously complex problems that are beyond even the reach of today’s most powerful supercomputers. No tool on Earth can do what the cryoprober does. The cryoprober can plunge a 300-millimeter silicon wafer to the extraordinarily low temperature of 1.7 kelvins —just a hair above absolute zero.
Intel worked with the Finnish firms Bluefors and Afore to design and build the cryoprober. It arrived in Oregon last year, and after a shakedown period has been working steadily for the past six months.
The cryoprober has dramatically sped up the rate at which Intel engineers can perfect new microscopic computing devices like spin qubits and quantum dots. The super-low temps are necessary because — at least today — quantum computing devices only function in the extreme cold.
Ravi Pillarisetty, a research scientist at Intel, says the cryoprober has been able to speed Intel’s research and testing from “a few quantum dots per week … to several hundred every day.” This speed is thanks to its size. The cryoprober’s heart — its vacuum can — is about 10 times more spacious than a standard cryogenic system you might buy off the shelf for research purposes. This means it is roomy enough to fit the latest-generation dinner plate-sized silicon wafers, which can be jam-packed with quantum devices, as well as to accommodate the machine’s parts that move and probe the super-chilled wafer.