September 30, 2022

New control electronics for quantum computers that improve performance, cut costs

New control electronics for quantum computers that improve performance, cut costs

When designing a quantum computer, a surprisingly large problem is bridging the communication gap between the classical and quantum worlds. Such computers need a specialized control and readout electronics to translate back and forth between the human operator and the quantum computer’s languages. 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 Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, has proved to drastically improve quantum computer performance while cutting the cost of control equipment.

The control and readout of qubits depend on microwave pulses. The team’s radio frequency (RF) board contains more than 200 elements: mixers to tweak the frequencies; filters to remove undesired frequencies; amplifiers and attenuators to adjust the amplitude of the signals; and switches to turn signals on and off. The board also contains a low-frequency control to tune certain qubit parameters. Together with a commercial FPGA board, which serves as the “brains” of the computer, the RF board provides everything scientists need to communicate successfully with the quantum world.

The two compact boards cost about 10 times less to produce than conventional systems. In their simplest configuration, they can control eight qubits. Integrating all the RF components into one board allows for faster, more precise operation as well as real-time feedback and error correction.

The work has been published in the Review of Scientific Instruments.

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