Building a Quantum Computer From Off-the-Shelf Parts
(IEEE.Spectrum) A new technique for fabricating quantum bits in silicon carbide wafers could provide a scalable platform for future quantum computers. The quantum bits, to the surprise of the researchers, can even be fabricated from a commercial chip built for conventional computing. The team bought a commercially available wafer of silicon carbide (a temperature-robust semiconductor used in electric vehicles, LED lights, solar cells, and 5G gear) and shot an electron beam at it.
David Awschalom, professor of molecular engineering at the University of Chicago. says his group at Chicago is one of a number that have followed up on the promise of a pioneering 2011 paper by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley—who first discovered that small defects in silicon carbide could be manipulated to become essentially room-temperature cages for individual electrons, whose spins can then be used as a quantum bit for possible computations and communications.
“Our approach is to see if we can leverage the trillion dollars or so of American industry that’s building today’s nanoelectronics and see if we can pivot that technology,” Awschalom says. “We thought we’d just buy commercial devices, create defects in them and see how well they worked. We were fairly pessimistic, because the material wasn’t created for quantum information technologies,” he says. “You might think, ‘This can’t work.’ But this is the beauty of research, you try it anyway. And what we learned were a series of things we honestly didn’t expect.”