If you’ve ever sat by your desktop for long periods of time, you’d be familiar with the way it can begin to heat up to accommodate all the work you are trying to do on it. Eventually, its fans will kick in to try and cool it down.
Now think about computers studying and examining things from the deepest parts of our universe. They will need more than just an in-built fan to keep them from exploding.
In steps ‘Project Goldeneye’, a refrigerator created by IBM that is colder than outer space. And if you know anything about outer space, you would know it’s incredibly cold. According to Astronomy.com, space is a frigid -455°F, or 2.7°K, if you needed an accurate estimate.
Goldeneye is meant to protect quantum computers that require such temperatures to be recreated on Earth to operate. Such supercomputers are needed to understand quantum physics, which is incredibly sensitive to our environment. Cryogenic temperatures are needed to keep the computers running, which would mean a state of cold that is almost at absolute zero or where an atom has almost zero energy.
The fridge is known as a dilution refrigerator, which can cool its contents down to a mili-Kelvin by using a combination of helium-3 and helium-4.
Scientists have built the refrigerator in a clamshell design so that they can easily enter the exterior vacuum chamber to fix any problems.
When put to the test, the fridge was able to be chilled down to an incredible 25mK, which is 1,000 times colder than space. Scientists also placed a quantum chip within it and found that its qubits were able to retain information for up to 450 microseconds. While that time is quicker than the blink of an eye, it is actually on par with other dilution fridges.
Goldeneye weighs about 6.7 tons—reducing vibrations and noise—and takes up a fraction of the space that other quantum fridges do, making it usable by smaller research labs.
IBM is planning on moving the fridge to its IBM Quantum Computation Center in Poughkeepsie, NY, where the team will continue to use it as a model for research and development of such cooling systems for future generations to learn from.