New Thermionic Device Could Revolutionize Cooling in Quantum Computers

A team of researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a thermionic device that could potentially revolutionize cooling in quantum computers, leading to more sustainable and efficient systems. Quantum computers rely on superconducting transmon qubits to perform computational work, but these qubits need to be cooled close to absolute-zero temperatures for optimal functioning. The current cooling methods for dilution-refrigerated quantum computers are costly and complex.

The Finnish researchers’ thermionic device enables cooling to occur in a purely electronic manner, eliminating the need for traditional cooling techniques. The device allows for temperatures to drop by up to 40%, which can significantly reduce cooling costs for quantum computers. The researchers expect to be able to cool electronics down to a range between 1.5 K and 0.1 K, providing an ideal cooling mechanism for “absolute-zero” computing.

Unlike traditional cooling methods that use mediums like water or air, the thermionic device sheds heat in the form of electrons. The device is designed to channel heat away from the most sensitive parts of the quantum computer to maximize the cooling effect. It is expected to be smaller, less expensive, and more reliable compared to fluid-based cooling methods.

One of the challenges in thermionic cooling is the interaction between electrons and other particles, such as phonons, which can cause heating. However, the researchers’ thermionic device can both direct electrons and block the returning phonons from interacting with the previously cooled surface, minimizing heat loss.

While the technology is still in the early stages, it has the potential to significantly advance heat management in quantum computers. By providing a simpler and more efficient cooling solution, the thermionic device could help in scaling down the overall size of quantum computer systems. Continued advancements in cooling techniques are crucial for the development of both quantum and classical computers.

– VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
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