Mapping the meteoric rise of quantum computing in chip design – The New Stack

Kenneth Larsen

Kenneth Larsen is Director of Product Marketing for the Silicon Realization Group at Synopsys. Kenneth holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and additional coursework in Strategic Growth at Columbia Business School and Artificial Intelligence at MIT Sloan School of Management.

Imagine a machine powerful enough to solve the most complex problems in minutes and perform a million calculations at once. Although this concept may seem straight out of a movie, it is actually a very real phenomenon known as quantum computing. It promises to revolutionize vaccine discovery, intelligent traffic control, weather forecasting and more. Conventional computers and today’s supercomputers are nowhere near as fast and advanced. With industries fueled by 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI) booming, the endless possibilities that quantum computing could bring will make it highly sought after by businesses around the world.

Quantum computing has been around since the 1980s, but its growth has just accelerated in recent years. As Moore’s Law continues to slow the growth of traditional semiconductor chips, the pace of interest and innovation in the emerging field of quantum computing from non-traditional industries continues to increase.

The race towards a quantum future is already underway, as companies become more aware of its potential impact on chip design and the opportunity for new photonics innovations in the future.

The basics of quantum computing

Classical computers store information in bits represented by a 0 or a 1. Quantum computers store data in “qubits”, which means that data is stored in a state of superposition which can represent 0, 1 or 0 and 1 tandem. This allows qubits to process information in parallel.

By analogy, imagine that you had to flip a coin. Typically, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll land heads or tails, according to classical probability theory. If you add quantum mechanics to the mix, you can now land heads and tails or heads and tails, if you take into account the orientation of the coin. What makes quantum computing an attractive solution is its ability to outperform the traditional system.

Quantum computing expands the possibilities for more efficient transmission of large amounts of data. When two particles, such as a pair of photons or electrons, become entangled, they remain connected even when separated by great distances. Entanglement is at the heart of quantum computing, and several researchers and scientists have noted that this phenomenon can transmit information faster than the speed of light. Currently, the industry’s fastest 2-qubit gate in silicon can perform an operation in 0.8 nanoseconds, which is about 200 times faster than other silicon spin-based 2-qubit gates in existence today. today. The connection is what scientists call an emergent property. That’s exciting.

The Quantum Future of Chip Design

While there are known commercial methods in existing electronics design processes that can scale a device and make transistors smaller, denser, and more interconnected, design that can scale d ‘quantum computing, but also resist sensitivity to manufacturing variations, is still not realized.

In the future, the combination of electronic and photonic architectures, as well as improved automation tools to support superconducting electronics (SCE) and deep cryogenic temperatures, will be crucial. New innovations in photonics, silicon CMOS, and ion traps are some of the key approaches to building scalable quantum architecture available today.

From scientific research to large-scale deployment, three key challenges must be addressed for quantum computing to succeed:

  • Correction of errors: Due to the no-cloning theorem, classical approaches to error-correcting codes do not make error rectification quantum. The specific methods of protecting information represent a major challenge that will have to be addressed.
  • Decoherence: Qubits generally lack stability and consistency, making it difficult for them to maintain their quantum states. As a result, it is much more difficult to improve operational fidelity, increase performance, correct errors, and scale the number of qubits needed by quantum computers.
  • Noise: When interleaved qubits are exposed to noise, data can be corrupted as it interacts with the environment. This can alter the state of the qubit, potentially corrupting an important computation.

Semiconductor companies are investing heavily in the race towards a quantum future, as quantum computers have the potential to drastically reduce simulation time from weeks to hours, providing electronic design automation vendors with new ways to revolutionize hardware platforms and computing software applications.

Photonics: the trendsetter

An emerging trend that we expect to see in the next era of quantum computing is the use of photonics. In the 1990s fiber optic links began to replace copper links so that more wavelengths or colors of light could be fed into the fiber for additional data to pass. Companies and researchers have also discovered that typical electronic components such as transistors and capacitors can be imitated and developed into devices that, in turn, manipulate the properties of light. As a result, trends such as the fusion of photons and electrons and exploiting their unique relationship for new applications began to emerge.

While exploiting the high speeds that quantum computing can offer, there is also an emphasis on low power consumption. This has led to the acceleration of research and discoveries in the field of photonics and photonic integrated circuit technologies. As this field accelerates, we expect the technological advantages to meet the current challenges of quantum computers.

The race has begun

Although we are still in the early stages of quantum computing commercialization and benchmarking, the quantum race has begun and semiconductor companies have taken the plunge. With the investment of tens of billions of dollars from venture capitalists, universities and governments, it is highly likely that quantum computing will reach the current speeds of AI innovation within 10 to 15 coming years.

The future of photonics is bright. Through the combination of semiconductor-based quantum computing using CMOS technologies and quantum photonics, we will be able to distribute immense computing power and easily solve complex problems.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Abdul J. Gaspar