An innovative combination of Keysight's quantum control system and FormFactor's cryogenic infrastructure is helping to boost qubit production, solving several quantum computing bottlenecks at once.

Collaboration Pushes the Quantum Community Forward

Over the next decade, quantum computing is poised to deliver a computational revolution in how our society designs next-generation therapies, sustainable materials, and optimizes supply chain logistics. However, for those at the industry's forefront, slow development cycles compound to a formidable headwind on quantum innovation.

The production of qubits is a perfect example. Much like the binary bits in classical computing, qubits are the basic unit of information in quantum computing. However, instead of only being silicon-based, their physical realization ranges from solid-state devices, trapped ions, to flying photons.

"Developing scalable quantum information processors requires significant engineering and scientific efforts," said Dr. Philip Krantz, business developer and quantum physicist at Keysight. "But the work the quantum engineering solutions team at Keysight is doing with a company called Seeqc in partnership with FormFactor, has recently led to a discovery that could significantly accelerate this area of research."

The qubit bottleneck

Seeqc is a spin-off of Hypres, one of the world's leading developers of superconductor electronics. Its mission is to create the first digital quantum computing platform for global businesses, but in many ways, its approach harkens to the early days of classical computing.

The PCs we use today, for example, all have a chip inside them where several processing operations are happening at the same time. Engineers at Seeqc think the production of qubits could involve doing something similar — integrating several key functions in a single processor. This includes qubit readout, control, error correction, and data processing.

"Seeqc has built a superconductor multilayer commercial chip foundry to do all this. It is focused on creating a quantum system that will not only be scalable but also offer digital control, energy- and cost-efficiency, and speed," said Dr. Oleg Mukhanov, chief technology officer and co-founder at Seeqc.

There's one big bottleneck: fabricating qubits with specific properties can involve a lot of trial and error. Qubits are fragile, and they need to be cooled down with what are known as dilution refrigerators (DRs) to extremely low temperatures. The chips are wire-bonded onto a test board before they go into the DR. Seeqc's engineers then need to wait an average of about 30 hours before they go through a qubit pretest, i.e. to qualify each quantum processor.

"If devices fail, the system has to be warmed up and the wire bonding done again with a new device," said Dr. Mukhanov. " In other words, a new device needs to be wire-bonded, loaded back into the DR and then restarting the cooling process.”

The longer this development cycle takes, the more expensive it becomes. And that could affect the timeline for companies like Seeqc to bring their research to commercial fruition.

Collaborating across the quantum ecosystem

The only way to really advance quantum computing in areas like these is for industry leaders to join forces and push research to the next level.

FormFactor, for instance, already plays a key role in providing organizations like Seeqc with cryostats, which not only maintain low temperatures for qubit production but which also have probe sockets that could be used in prescreening without wire-bonding devices to a test board. FormFactor's HPD Model 106 cryostat also offered the advantage of an adiabatic demagnetization refrigeration (ADR) module that can achieve a base temperature below 50 millikelvin, creating a good environment for qubit pre-screening.

"Together with our collaborators at FormFactor, we realized we could reduce the time and complexity in testing and streamline the deployment of devices into a DR by combining FormFactor's infrastructure with Labber, the company's software to control and automate quantum applications," said Dr. Krantz.

Then, using Keysight's PXI-based quantum control system, Seeqc could run a sequence of measurements akin to interrogating the chip. Rather than put more work on those doing the testing, Keysight preconfigured its control system with qubit pre-characterization in mind. "We also made it flexible so that users can measure what they want, be it time-domain or steady-state characteristics," said Dr. Krantz.

Implications for the quantum community

Since working with Keysight on this project, Seeqc has reduced its development cycle time.

"By pre-characterizing their superconducting devices, Seeqc's team can ensure only the best-performing ones are deployed into the DR," said Krantz. "Without this integrated measurement solution, the length of the development cycle would increase by 52 percent."

This is a major win for anyone working in quantum engineering. It means they can package and deploy devices with greater confidence.

Time and cost savings are important in any sector, of course, but the size of the workforce and available talent in quantum computing means there are not enough people with PhDs to go around. The work Keysight has done with FormFactor will help people with other backgrounds run tests more readily. With this solution, there is no need for engineers to spend their time writing code to communicate with measurement instruments. Instead, they can focus their skills on exploring research areas.

The future of quantum

The quantum community does not know for certain where quantum computing is going over the next 10 years. But our customers are looking to harness this power —today — to create competitive advantage, be it in wind resistance over a fighter jet wing or optimizing trading schemes on Wall Street.

The work Keysight and FormFactor are engaged in with quantum companies like Seeqc is not only critical to bringing researchers closer to quantum computers, but also enables companies to take advantage of the capabilities already on the table in quantum computing, quantum communications, and quantum sensing. Keysight's quantum solutions include control and measurement tools for the leading qubit technologies, software solutions, and education.

Read our brochure to learn more about speeding the development cycle for superconducting and spin qubits.