Intel has teamed up with dilution refrigerator manufacturer Bluefors and MEMS (Micro-electro-mechanical-systems) specialist Afore to develop a wafer prober that can operate at cryogenic temperatures. Intel will be utilizing this device to characterize and speed feedback of their silicon spin qubit device built on their 300 mm manufacturing line in Oregon.
The importance of this development is that the development process of improving both the quality and quantity of qubits in a device is an incremental and iterative process by the engineering team. Each time they make a run and fabricate a device they will measure and characterize the performance parameters and use this information to create an improved design that they will build in the next run. Engineers will do this over and over again and hopefully make progress with each step.
Previously, the characterization process was very manual and takes significant time. After a wafer has been fabricated it is cut up and individual chips are mounted inside a dilution refrigerator for measurement. With the available of a cryogenic wafer probe much of this process will be automated and the time it takes to analyze each run should improve significantly.
This development could potentially provide Intel with a competitive advantage unless other quantum companies start taking the same approach. It might allow Intel to develop and improve new qubit designs at a much faster pace than others. Notably, Intel only mentions in the press release that they are using this technology with the silicon spin qubit technology and do not mention using it with their superconducting qubit technology. This may signal their plans to focus on the silicon spin qubits for the longer term.
For more details, you can view Intel’s press release here.