Superconducting circuits, the heart of quantum computers, require a unique environment to function optimally. The critical component in creating such an environment is the cryogenic cable, which ensures efficient and reliable signal transmission. Not all cryogenic cables are created equally and there are various factors that need to be taken into account to ensure that you select the correct one that suits the needs of the quantum computer that is being built.
Understanding Cryogenic Cables
Cryogenic cables are designed for superconductivity in ultra-low temperature environments, typically below -150 degrees Celsius. Superconductivity emerges when select materials, once cooled beneath a particular threshold, display an absence of electrical resistance. This absence ensures that RF signals traverse without energy dissipation caused by resistance.
Such cables are often manufactured from advanced superconducting compounds, with niobium-titanium (NbTi) and niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) being prime examples. These compounds are adept at transmitting RF signals resistance-free in cryogenic conditions. To safeguard the ultra-low temperature environment, these cables are housed within a cryostat—a sealed vessel that offers superior thermal insulation.
In the quantum computing landscape, these cables are indispensable. They bridge the quantum processor with the control electronics at ambient temperature. The caliber of these cables can profoundly shape the efficacy of a quantum computer. Inferior cables might be sources of noise and signal disruptions, which can cause significant computational inaccuracies. Top-tier cryogenic cables on the other hand, can elevate a quantum computer’s performance by ensuring consistent and efficient signal flow.
Factors to Consider When Selecting Cryogenic Cables
There are three main configurations of cryogenic cables: single core, three-in-one (or triad, three-core), and concentric (or triaxial). The choice of configuration depends on various factors such as rated voltage and current, short-current level, cable length, and footprint requirement. For instance, in urban distribution grids with limited corridors and low voltage levels, a concentric type cryogenic cable becomes the best option. This version of the cable uses about half the high-temperature superconducting (HTS) tapes compared to single core or three-in-one type, thereby reducing the cable cost. The compact size of the cable fits in a single, smaller cryostat, which reduces the heat load and saves valuable cryogenic resources.
The materials used in manufacturing high quality cryogenic cables are crucial for their performance. Cables have to handle the effects of thermal cycling, as quantum computers frequently go from ambient to cryogenic temperatures. They also need to cycle through the temperatures without losing conductivity or flexibility. To be able to ensure system safety, the cryogenic cable also has to be designed to handle the potential system overload operation. Therefore, cryogenic cables are typically constructed using high-performance superconducting materials such as niobium-titanium (NbTi) or niobium-tin (Nb3Sn). These materials are popular choices due to their ability to conduct RF signals without resistance when cooled to cryogenic temperatures.
The thermal performance of cryogenic cables is their ability to operate in cold environments while maintaining the highest levels of efficiency, reliability, and longevity. Thermal performance consists of thermal conductivity, heat capacity, and thermal expansion coefficients.
Thermal conductivity defines how well a material can conduct heat. A lower thermal conductivity is often desirable as less heat will be transferred to the superconducting circuits. This preserves the ultra-cold operational environment. Heat capacity refers to the amount of heat a material can store per unit temperature rise. A cable with a high heat capacity can absorb more heat before its temperature rises. This acts as a buffer against sudden thermal fluctuations. Thermal expansion coefficients quantify the expansion and contraction of the material with temperature changes. For cryogenic cables, it’s crucial to select materials with minimal thermal expansion at cryogenic temperatures. This ensures that the cables remain dimensionally stable, preventing physical stresses that could degrade their performance or lead to premature failure.
The right balance of these thermal properties, combined with advanced design techniques, ensure that these cables can meet the stringent demands of superconducting circuits.
High quality cryogenic cables are durable. Their performance remains high while going through temperature cycling and the cables remain flexible. Flexibility ensures that the cables can be bent into the right shapes without losing conductivity. Another important factor of the cryogenic cable is the connectors. The connectors used with cryogenic cables should remain secure ensuring minimal signal loss and potential interference while maintaining their integrity over time.
Delft Circuits – Your Cryogenic Cable Partner
When building a quality quantum computer the choice of the right cryogenic cable is critical. The right cryogenic cable significantly impacts performance. Considering the aforementioned factors, you can make an informed choice that meets your specific needs.
Our reputation, expertise and proven track record in the field of cryogenic cables give you confidence in the quality and reliability of our products. Our cables have been designed and manufactured in-house and undergone rigorous testing to meet the necessary certification standards. Partner with us and find out more about our products here.