Quantum Computing, Superconductors and the Cold Hard Truth
Quantum computers stand poised to deliver dramatic breakthroughs in any number of scientific and engineering fields. Personalized drugs, pinpoint weather predictions, better batteries and super-secure encryption all fall within the realm of possibility, along with many other applications.
In parallel, another category of machines called superconducting computers promises to elevate conventional computing to the so-called exascale level, where they will deliver a formidable 1018 FLOPS of processing speed at only one tenth the power of present technology.
However, both share a common attribute that must be accommodated on their journey from lab to fab: They can only function at ultralow temperatures approaching absolute zero.
The Deepest of Freezes
Quantum computing machines are constructed of “quantum bits” called qubits, which leverage a phenomenon called superposition; unlike traditional data bits, qubits can simultaneously hold both one and zero values. Multiple qubits can also demonstrate marvelous interactions called entanglement. Using these quantum behaviors in concert, qubit-based systems can evaluate, in parallel, enormous numbers of potential solutions to complex problems. However, qubits are extremely sensitive to small amounts of thermal noise, so to maintain a stable state long enough to complete their calculation (“coherence”) they are kept at temperatures approaching absolute zero. For further efficiency, designers often leverage superconducting connections to build qubits into computing systems.
Classical supercomputers will still be needed for many computing tasks, but today these computers consume very high amounts of power from megawatts to gigawatts. New types of logic families, such as RQL (reciprocal quantum logic) and RSFQ (rapid single flux quantum) and others, leverage quantum effects and superconducting connections to perform the same classical computing functions but with extraordinary speed and efficiency. Here again, the key is to create an operating environment close to absolute zero. It’s projected that a conventional supercomputer consuming a megawatt could be replaced by a superconducting machine consuming only 10K watts.
What can Quantum Computing do for us?
- Solve equations otherwise impossible or impractical to solve
- Help optimize systems to provide greater efficiencies, and performances
- Such challenges as finance, intelligence, drug design, utilities, artificial intelligence
Wafer Probing Goes Cryogenic
An intense effort is underway in research facilities around the world to develop the components that will move these new computing technologies out of the lab and into commercial production. One major challenge is to create test and measurement environments that mirror the extremely low temperatures at which these components will eventually operate. Wafer- and chip-level probing must be conducted to evaluate the new devices and circuits, verify operating parameters, and validate volume fabrication processes. Many of the test and measurement operations are similar to those for traditional semiconductors, only now these procedures must be executed at extremely low temperatures.
High-performance on-wafer probing
Our high-performance cryogenic probe stations for on-wafer and multi-chip measurements support a wide range of challenging applications, including IR-sensor test, radiometric test, DC and RF measurements at cryogenic temperatures. The HPD 4 K Cryogenic Wafer Prober is a high precision fully automated probe station for 150 mm and 200 mm substrates in a 4 K environment. To accelerate the realization of commercial quantum and superconducting computers, we provide chip developers with the tools they need to intelligently iterate on their designs.
HPD IQ1000 Fully Automated Scanning SQUID Microscope
Quantum IC designers use this Superconducting Quantum Interference Device tool to study the dynamics of trapped magnetic flux (magnetic vortices) in superconducting circuits which can negatively impact circuit operation.
The IQ1000 enables superconducting device design teams to image magnetic vortices in devices cooled through the superconducting transition temperature in controlled magnetic fields. With rapid scan speed and process automation, the IQ1000 is the first commercial product of its kind to enable unattended and high throughput characterization. Device designers can now eliminate the guesswork involved in the design of resilient superconducting circuits, and significantly reduce development time by locating and capturing detrimental magnetic vortices to enhance device performance.
The Shasta 106 adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator (ADR) cryostat has been optimized for flexibility and versatility. It aims to support ultra low temperature research by providing quick and affordable access to mK temperatures. Many customizable options make it easy to reconfigure to fit your needs.
This system uses a two stage ADR to reach temperatures as low as 30mK. An ADR operates by submitting a salt crystal to strong magnetic fields. In these different states, the salt crystal will either absorb or dump thermal energy. This is used to shuttle heat away from the sample stage achieving mK temperatures.
Ultra Low Vibration Chip-scale Probe Station for Conducting High-Accuracy Measurements at True 4K Cryogenic Temperatures
The HPD Kilimanjaro 125 is a superior 4K solution to meet all your probing needs with an emphasis on ultra low vibration applications. This system employs a range of thermal isolation techniques to take full advantage of all the cooling power available. We have taken extra care to ensure all signals are well sunk before reaching your sample. All interfaces have been specially designed to block any radiation from disturbing your sample.
FormFactor’s HPD 4 K cryogenic probe stations and Adiabatic Demagnetization Refrigeration (ADR) cryostats are part of FormFactor’s suite of cryogenic products to give our customers the broadest range of test and measurement options.