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New Technique May Be Capable of Creating Qubits From Silicon Carbide Wafer

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Researchers from the University of Chicago have discovered a technique that might be able to produce qubits from defects in commercially available silicon carbide wafers. This could represent a scalable way of creating qubits using off-the-shelf tools.

As published in Science (opens in new tab) and reported on by IEEE Spectrum (opens in new tab), the researchers bought a silicon carbide wafer and shot an electron beam at it. This created deficiencies that behaved as a single electron spin that could be manipulated electrically, optically (with lasers) and magnetically. Basically, the defects act as room-temperature cages for electrons. The electron’s spin, an inherent property of electrons, could then be used as a qubit. Individual electron spins can hold their information for up to 1 millisecond.

"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," David Awschalom, one of the researchers and a professor of molecular engineering at the University of Chicago, said, according to IEEE. 

However, the researchers' work is still in early stages. They do not have a working quantum computer yet or even a provable qubit.

The work seems similar to one of Intel’s two approaches (opens in new tab) to building quantum computers, which makes use of spin qubits manufactured on Intel’s standard 300mm CMOS wafer lines. The difference seems to be that Intel uses silicon wafers instead of silicon carbide. Intel announced testing the chip (opens in new tab) in 2018. In December, Intel also created a control chip for its quantum chips (opens in new tab).