Series 9 – Episode 2 – Improving quantum computer performance with new control electronics

2nd September 2022
Paige West

Paige West talks with Gustavo Cancelo, Lead Engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (also referred to as Fermilab) about a project that is developing new control electronics for quantum computers.

When designing a next-generation quantum computer, a surprisingly large problem is bridging the communication gap between the classical and quantum worlds. Such computers need specialised control and readout electronics to translate back and forth between the human operator and the quantum computer's languages, but existing systems are cumbersome and expensive.

However, a new system of control and readout electronics, known as Quantum Instrumentation Control Kit, or QICK, developed by engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, has proved to drastically improve quantum computer performance while cutting the cost of control equipment.

“Until recently, most scientists working in quantum computing focus (for very good reason) on the devices. But in order to do the readout and control of these quantum systems, you need to interact with the classical world of physics. And they relied on commercial off-the-shelf equipment that is expensive and bulky that requires a lot of interconnectivity and programming,” said Cancelo.

“We thought about solving this problem in an integral way in which the classical control and readout is an integral part of the experiment. By doing that, we basically design for specific quantum experiments.”

Cancelo goes on to speak about a new commercial FPGA – field-programmable gate array – chip they used when designing this system and what he thinks will be some core research areas that will benefit from this combination of human and quantum computing-led analysis.

To hear more about quantum computing and much more, you can listen to Electronic Specifier’s interview with Gustavo Cancelo on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

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