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Qubit by Qubit: Optimizing Silicon For Quantum Computing

20 November 2023 at 10:24
silicon qubits

Insider Brief

  • Silicon qubits have long coherence times and are compatible with advanced semiconductor manufacturing techniques.
  • These qubits also face challenges, such as charge noise and valley splitting.
  • Researchers at the University of Rochester, University at Buffalo, SUNY Stony Brook, NY Creates, University of California, Los Angeles and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are using grant funds to find ways to overcome silicon qubit challenges.
  • Image: University of Rochester physicist John Nichol is exploring ways to overcome some shortcomings of otherwise promising silicon spin qubits. (Mark Garlick / Getty Images Science Photo Library)

PRESS RELEASE — Quantum computers harness quantum mechanics to perform computations and solve problems beyond the capabilities of classical computers. While a regular computer consists of billions of transistors, called bits, quantum computers are based on quantum bits, also known as qubits.

In the quest to build powerful quantum computers, one type of qubit has shown exceptional promise: silicon spin qubits. These qubits not only have long coherence times but are also compatible with advanced semiconductor manufacturing techniques. Despite this promise, the material used in silicon spin qubits creates recurring challenges for researchers. These include:

  • Charge noise, or erratic fluctuations in the electrostatic environment surrounding the qubits, making them unstable
  • Valley splitting, which creates quantum-dot energy levels that can get too close and cause unwanted complications
  • Spatial variations in electron g-factor, which can lead to difficulty controlling qubits

To overcome these challenges, the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) has awarded more than $6.7 million to a multidisciplinary team of experts in materials characterization and modeling, silicon fabrication, and quantum experiments. Led by researchers at the University of Rochester, the team includes collaborators at the University at Buffalo; SUNY Stony Brook; NY Creates; University of California, Los Angeles; and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“We are taking a materials-first approach to discovering the underlying causes of the challenges with silicon spin qubits,” says John Nichol, an associate professor of physics at Rochester and the primary investigator on the project.

AFOSR funds high-risk basic research that has the potential to profoundly impact the nation’s technological progress, in areas including the development of stable and powerful quantum computers. The office’s funding of a partnership between academia, a national laboratory, and an innovation hub is key to making advances in quantum computing, according to Nichol.

“This team has the required expertise to investigate correlations and causation in silicon spin qubits and ultimately accelerate progress through materials development in this platform,” he says.

Michelle Simmons, 2018 Australian of the Year, Wins PM’s Top Science Prize for Pioneering Quantum Computing in Atomic Electronics

19 October 2023 at 10:19

Professor Michelle Simmons, a quantum physicist from the University of New South Wales and the 2018 Australian of the Year, has received the highest distinction at the Prime Minister’s Science Awards.

Celebrating its 24th year, these awards are Australia’s leading honours for scientific achievements and education. Recognized for her foundational contributions to atomic electronics, Simmons’ groundbreaking discoveries are paving a new direction in quantum computing.

“It’s a really special and wonderful thing,” said Simmons of the $250,000 prize.

Simmons said she was initially drawn to the field by the allure of “building things that have not been made before, with the potential to have a huge impact on computing power”.

As the creator of Silicon Quantum Computing, Australia’s inaugural quantum computing firm, she and her team aim to build the world’s first fault-tolerant quantum computer, a significant milestone in the domain.

“We’re the only company in the world that can manufacture with atomic precision,” said Simmons. “My belief is that precision is what you need to create this error-corrected quantum computer. We’ve been able to put down individual atoms of phosphorus in silicon and encode information on both the electron and the nucleus of the phosphorus atom,” she added. “It’s something that was kind of unimaginable 20 years ago, that we would know how to manipulate and build devices where we’ve got atomic precision … in all three dimensions.”

The 2023 awards also celebrated other distinguished researchers such as Prof Chris Greening, noted for his findings on how microbes extract gases from the atmosphere; Prof Yuerui (Larry) Lu, the innovator behind the thinnest micro-lens globally; and Associate Prof Lara Herrero, the pioneer of a pioneering drug with the potential to address viral arthritis.

Featured image: Prof Michelle Simmons has been awarded the 2023 prime minister’s prize for science, in recognition of discoveries that form the basis of a new approach to quantum computing. Photograph: Prime minister’s prizes for science

Q-CTRL, Diraq Partner to Secure Millions for Three Public-Sector Quantum Projects

5 September 2023 at 11:27
Australia Q-CTRL Diraq

Insider Brief

  • Q-CTRL and Diraq announced that the companies are partnering on three government projects for quantum computing.
  • The projects are sponsored by NSW Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer’s Quantum Computing Commercialisation Fund (QCCF) and the U.S. Army Research Office.
  • Q-CTRL is a quantum control infrastructure software developer and Diraq is a silicon-based quantum computing company.

PRESS RELEASE — Q-CTRL, a global leader in developing useful quantum technologies through quantum control infrastructure software, and Diraq, a leading innovator in Silicon-based quantum computing, today announced they will be partnering on three multi-million-dollar projects to expand the commercial adoption of quantum computing. It represents the first stage of an anticipated partnership delivering new, high-impact quantum computing capabilities to the global market, from Australia.

The two Australian quantum technology companies will deliver three projects together: two from the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer’s Quantum Computing Commercialisation Fund (QCCF) and one from the U.S. Army Research Office. Q-CTRL and Diraq are sharing responsibilities on the projects: Diraq will develop and provide access to its Silicon quantum computing hardware and Q-CTRL will build and integrate its quantum infrastructure software solutions to deliver maximum end-user value from the hardware.

Q-CTRL and Diraq highlight Australia’s leading role in the global quantum technology industry. Diraq’s hardware is constructed using a novel technology known as spins in silicon, offering true scalability in the number of qubits to the many millions, and ultimately billions per chip. Q-CTRL is a category-defining business focused on developing quantum infrastructure software to improve the utility and performance of quantum hardware. Michael Biercuk, founder and CEO of Q-CTRL, and Andrew Dzurak founder and CEO of Diraq, have been colleagues for over 20 years – first in academia and later in industry – and are recognized pioneers in their technical specialties.

The Australian quantum ecosystem is flourishing, and with the recently announced National Quantum Strategy, the Government has taken steps to be an active supporter in growing the industry.

The Quantum Computing Commercialisation Fund is an initiative from New South Wales to empower Australian quantum computing hardware and software companies. The projects focus on increasing the commercial and technological readiness of quantum computing technologies in order to support long-term commercial activities. The projects shared between Diraq and Q-CTRL will help deliver Australia’s first cloud-accessible silicon quantum processor, and help orient this technology towards providing cutting-edge capabilities to Australia’s globally leading financial services sector.

“The partnership between Diraq and Q-CTRL exemplifies our shared commitment to driving the next era of innovation in the quantum computing industry, both locally in Australia and globally,” said Diraq CEO and Founder, Andrew Dzurak. “We are delighted to collaborate with Q-CTRL, leveraging our specialised areas of expertise to jointly drive successful outcomes across these transformative projects.”

Australian companies and University teams have long engaged with the US Army Research Office in support of quantum computing capability development. In the current project led by Diraq, the two teams will focus on developing novel techniques to operate and optimize next-generation Silicon quantum processors. The ARO R&D program now aligns with quantum technology initiatives supported under the trilateral AUKUS agreement’s Pillar II. AUKUS Pillar II is aimed at enhancing capabilities and interoperability with a focus on cyber capabilities, AI, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities. In July, Q-CTRL announced a separate deal with the Australian Department of Defence, centering around quantum sensors for navigation; the technological breakthroughs would be shared with AUKUS partners in the US and UK.

“It’s exciting to see Australia’s two leading quantum computing companies collaborating to deliver true sovereign capability in one of the most profound technical fields of the century,” said Q-CTRL CEO and Founder, Michael Biercuk. “We’re thrilled to be helping accelerate the work of our friends at Diraq, and ensuring these powerful new systems deliver value broadly across the Australian and global economies.”