Quantum ELecTronics in silIcon Carbide (QELTIC)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

Unbreakable codes, teleportation of information and ultra-fast computing will soon cease to be figments of science fiction literature thanks to the ongoing development of quantum technologies. Quantum mechanics is a branch of Physics that has allowed us to understand how nature works at the atomic and sub-atomic scales. This wealth of knowledge has already enabled successful modern technologies, such as smartphones, DVD players and MRI scanners. However, even more transformative quantum-based technologies are on the horizon and could lead to enhanced sensors, powerful quantum computers and un-hackable communication systems. These are considered imminent realities, so much so that governments and major ICT corporations are copiously investing to benefit from their future commercialisation.

Some quantum devices are currently at a stage of development where scientists and engineers are trying to determine in which shape or form they could be more efficiently commercialised. Whenever a new technology is being developed, a choice among possible implementations has to be made. For example, initial videocassette recording systems came simultaneously onto the market in two hardware formats (Betamax and VHS) from competitors Sony and JVC, before VHS eventually became dominant. Similarly, many materials are presently scrutinised to build the future quantum hardware. For instance, Google and IBM are investing in superconductors, while Intel and Hitachi have a prevalent focus on semiconductors, because they are already widely deployed in the microchip industry. Project QELTIC will investigate quantum effects in silicon carbide (SiC), a semiconductor made of silicon (the material used for most modern electronics) and carbon (the cornerstone element for life on Earth).

SiC is an extremely promising material because it hosts quantum effects that can be exploited to build a range of useful devices ranging from sensitive environmental sensors (temperature, radiation, magnetic field etc.) to secure communication devices and enhanced computing apparatuses. Crucially, SiC quantum technology could leverage existing industrial protocols and processes, as opposed to other materials that would require significant investments and additional infrastructure. The main hurdle to advance this technology is the realisation of nanometre size electronic components that allow one to deterministically engineer and control quantum effects. This is important because it would lay the foundation for scaling up to large integrated systems that can perform complex tasks, such as detection, computation and communication.

QELTIC aims to develop the underpinning technology to realise the first generation of quantum nano-devices in SiC. This research will cut through a diverse range of expertise by promoting a synthesis between quantum optics, quantum electronics and semiconductor device engineering. This will open a new direction in the field that has, until now, addressed these aspects separately. This project is one of discovery science with clear and realistic technological benefits. In order to enhance the commercial relevance of QELTIC's findings, the support of a diverse network of business partners has been secured. For example, ICT giants of the calibre of Hitachi and British Telecom will contribute towards the development of the technology and could act as early adopters. The National Physical Laboratory will support the project with provision of specialised laboratory equipment. The University of Strathclyde is ideally positioned to host this project, given advanced and expanding research activities in the quantum arena, its key role in the implementation of the National Quantum Technology Programme, and its strong ties with the nascent quantum-related industrial sector.

Planned Impact

The societal impact of future quantum technologies cannot be overstated. The potential of powerful quantum computers and secure quantum communication networks is as unforeseeable today as rudimentary computers and small interconnected academic hubs were decades ago. In order to facilitate industrial scale development and adoption, project QELTIC seeks to realise the first generation of quantum electronics in silicon carbide (SiC). The focus on this semiconductor is deliberately aimed at maximising the impact on the development of scalable technologies. By combining the maturity of SiC manufacturing processes with the innovative potential of its quantum defects, QELTIC will provide a platform to scale up isolated demonstrations of quantum control to large integrated industry-friendly systems. Hence, there will be benefits for both the academic community and the nascent industrial ecosystem in quantum applications.

Besides quantum technologies, this project will impact the field of conventional electronics. In fact, due to its environmental resilience, SiC is widely used as the semiconductor of choice for operation in harsh environments, such as Space and Underground. QELTIC's results may become relevant for the development of smaller, lighter and more energy efficient integrated circuits than is currently possible for these applications. The interactions with the project's industrial partners will facilitate these commercial opportunities in the medium term, as well as the generation of intellectual property in the short term. As such, this project could widen the scope of UK's industrial R&D activities in the sector. For example, the establishment of a spin-off enterprise could result in the engagement of the national SiC manufacturing industry in Wales as part of the supply chain. Additionally, through the adoption of characterisation protocols developed jointly with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), QELTIC will promote consistency and standardization in the use of SiC. This process will advise policymakers (e.g. the ISO standard body) for the harmonisation of the supply chain of new SiC-based products.

Planned interactions with corporate partners (e.g. review meetings and secondments) will also constitute the preferential route for knowledge transfer, directly promoting the enhancement of QELTIC's team members skills. For example, British Telecom will provide the team with training in commercial applications relevant to the telecom market. Furthermore, the PI will benefit from training in manufacturing techniques at Hitachi, and the PDRA will learn cryogenic experimental techniques at NPL. The PhD students involved in the project will benefit from exposure to the industrial world and will become much sought-after R&D recruits by the end of their studies. They will be part of NPL's Postgraduate Institute and will receive tailored training in industry-relevant measurement science. Further training opportunities will be available at the University of Strathclyde, including the Career Development Framework and the SPIRAL Programme. These activities will be instrumental for team members to develop a range of entrepreneurial, managerial and soft skills. QELTIC will thus contribute towards a supply of well-rounded and qualified people for scientific and technical careers.

Finally, concepts related to nanotechnology and quantum computing excite the imagination of school students and may motivate them to pursue scientific subjects in their curricula. This project, through dedicated public engagement activities supported by the excellent Outreach Programme at British Telecom, is well suited to inspire the young generations. In engaging with local schools, QELTIC will also promote a better gender balance in science and equality of access to higher education. To this end, Strathclyde students from minority groups or disadvantaged backgrounds will be invited to act as role models for school pupils.

Publications

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Rossi A (2021) Cover Image, Volume 121, Issue 14 in International Journal of Quantum Chemistry

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Rossi A (2021) Quantum computing hardware in the cloud: Should a computational chemist care? in International Journal of Quantum Chemistry

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Rossi A (2021) Single-hole pump in germanium in Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics

 
Title Quantum Computer Solution 
Description Cover Image for Int. Journal of Quantum Chem. (Volume 121, Issue 14) 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Enhanced visibility for the journal articled the artwork refers to because it went on the Cover of the magazine 
URL https://doi.org/10.1002/qua.26306
 
Description Some goals of the award have been already achieved (in Year 1 of 4). These include building a team (3 PhDs +1 PostDoc), raising the profile of the PI (job promotion, 4 invited contributions to conference/workshop/paper), building a brand new cryogenic laboratory (under construction).
The scientific goals are yet to materialise, as we have just gone through the first year of research.
Exploitation Route The team members will become highly skilled technology-savvy workers and will contribute to combat the skill shortage in the digital and nascent quantum industry sectors.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics

 
Description Empowering Practical Interfacing of Quantum Computing (EPIQC)
Amount £2,448,091 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/W032627/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2022 
End 04/2026
 
Description Integrated Control Electronics for Semiconductor Quantum Devices
Amount £80,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2597132 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2021 
End 03/2025
 
Description Integrated quantum devices based on ion-implanted semiconductors.
Amount £80,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2597681 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2021 
End 03/2025
 
Description Quantum devices based on silicon carbide transistors
Amount £118,514 (GBP)
Funding ID 2620026 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2021 
End 10/2025
 
Description Partnership with British Telecom 
Organisation BT Group
Department BT Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are contributing to BT's Outreach programme by crafting new multimedia educational material
Collaborator Contribution access to BT educational platform and network
Impact Video on the science of electricity for 9-11 year old pupils (in preparation)
Start Year 2021
 
Description Partnership with Hitachi 
Organisation Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Provision of materials and samples. Simulations on fabrication parameters (ion implantation).
Collaborator Contribution Sample characterisation. Expertise on optical measurements.
Impact Collection of data-sets that will contribute to an academic publication (in preparation)
Start Year 2021
 
Description Partnership with National Physical Laboratory 
Organisation National Physical Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Expertise in semiconductor quantum devices. Network of contacts in the National Quantum Technology Programme.
Collaborator Contribution Access to experimental facility and expertise. Secondment of PI and PhD. Co-supervision and co-funding of PhDs.
Impact 1)We contributed towards 2 successful bids for Innovate UK projects. The PI is acting as a co-technical lead for these projects with the partner's scientists. 2)We attracted a new customer for the "Measurement 4 Quantum" programme of the partner.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Silicon spin qubits 
Organisation Quantum Motion Technologies Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Experimental work on samples provided by the partner. Facilitated engagement of Quantum Motion with other partners of QELTIC.
Collaborator Contribution Provided samples in-kind. Provided theoretical expertise to analyse data.
Impact Part of the scientific outputs are being written up for publication (preparation stage). Publication expected by mid-2022.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Deliver a webinar for AIMDay 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The PI was invited to give a webinar to industrial stakeholders in preparation for the in-person AIMDay event of April 2023. The theme was "Explore Quantum Computing", a series of webinars hosted by University of Edinburgh allowing companies and organisations to hear directly from leading researchers from institutions in Scotland.
The series features academics from different areas of expertise sharing their insights about quantum computing, discussing the latest advances, giving an outlook to the future, and reflecting on what this may mean for industry partners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://aimday.se/quantum-computing-edinburgh-2023/explore-webinars-on-quantum-computing/
 
Description Invited talk at RAISIN Workshop 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI was invited to give a talk at the inaugural workshop of the RAISIN Network (EPSRC International Quantum Technology Network - Roadmap for Applications of Implanted Single Impurities). The fundamental objective of this workshop was to set out an interim roadmap that will enable single ion implantation capabilities to advance applications of quantum technologies. Discussions revolved around: Identification of new collaborations; seeking QT academic community prioritisation of tool/techniques development; identification of potential gaps in network skills and capabilities to deliver the proposed roadmap.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://raisin-qt.net/next-meeting/programme/
 
Description PI co-organised and Co-chaired international conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact PI co-organised and co-chaired the 2022 Silicon Quantum Information Processing Workshop. The event attracted nearly 70 international delegates, with contributors joining from as far as Australia. Besides academic delegates, there was a sizable contingent of approximately 25% joining from industry. This included companies such as Hitachi, Quantum Motion, Quantum Design and Ice Oxford. It was a great opportunity to showcase the team's work to attending partners from the National Quantum Technology Programme, as well as to advertise job vacancies which may lead to high-quality applications. Our team presented a contributed talk and a poster.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.iopconferences.org/iop/frontend/reg/thome.csp?pageID=1123025&eventID=1828&CSPCHD=0000010...
 
Description PI interviewed by Nature magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact PI has been interviewed for Where I work, a weekly column in Nature magazine. In the article, he talks about his research in quantum technology, as well as the challenges of bringing together quantum physics and metrology. The article is supported by a portrait taken in the lab by one of Nature's photographers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02224-z
 
Description PI organised and chaired a conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact PI co-organised and chaired the 2021 Silicon Quantum Information Processing Workshop. The event attracted nearly 100 international delegates, with contributors joining from as far as Australia and New Zealand. Besides academic delegates, there was a sizable contingent of approximately 25% joining from industry. This included companies such as Hitachi, Tyndall, Oxford Instruments and Imec. It was a great opportunity to showcase the team's work to attending partners from the National Quantum Technology Programme, as well as to advertise job vacancies which may lead to high-quality applications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://sqip2021.iopconfs.org/
 
Description Team website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact We launched a new website to share publicly the aims of our research, the team members involved, the available vacancies, the collaborations, the publications etc. We expect that in the near future this will improve the visibility of our work and result in high-profile applications to join our team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://sequel.phys.strath.ac.uk
 
Description Working group for NPL/LCN collaborative work 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and London Centre of Nanotechnology (LCN) are interested in strengthening of strategical collaborations. Three priority areas have been identified (Quantum, Advanced Materials, Electrochemistry) and the PI was invited to take part to the workshop as an expert of the first group.
The day unfolded with plenary talks in the morning and brainstorming/roadmap exercise by priority areas in the afternoon. Some areas for possible synergies were identified and will be pursued in follow-up discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022