Salford physicists show new potential for silicon-based quantum computers

Categories: School of Science, Engineering and Environment

Quantum computers, the next generation of supercomputers, could solve a multitude of problems that classical computers cannot, and they will likely be built using some form of silicon fabrication technology.

A research team headed by Dr Mark Hughes, an academic at the university, is looking at ways that quantum computers could talk to each other over optical fibre by investigating erbium implanted silicon. To gain further understanding of erbium implanted silicon, the scientists developed a new measurement technique called Optically Modulated Magnetic Resonance (OMMR) which showed the surroundings of the erbium, its energy levels and how they match-up with silicon energy levels. This new understanding will help the development of communication between quantum computers.

Dr Hughes said:

“The element erbium allows the internet to function by amplifying light sent down optical fibre, whereas silicon is essential for fabricating microchips. Putting erbium in silicon could allow future quantum computers build using silicon to talk to each other, but more understanding of what happens to erbium when it is inside a silicon crystal is critical. We developed a new technique we have called optically modulated magnetic resonance which revealed a lot of previously unknown information about the state of erbium inside a silicon crystal.”

About Erbium?

To enable silicon-based quantum computers to talk directly to each other over optical fibre, the element erbium is the ideal solution because it emits light at exactly the right wavelength to go down optical fibre.

The best way to get erbium into silicon is by implantation (the method preferred by the likes of Intel to get useful elements into silicon), because it is quick and precise. However, the surrounding of erbium after it has been implanted into silicon has not been well understood, which hindered development of quantum applications.

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