SFU researchers discover the missing photonic line

image: A single central qubit T in the silicon lattice (rendered), which supports the first single spin ever observed optically in silicon. The constituents of the T center (two carbon atoms and one hydrogen atom) are shown in orange, and the optically addressable electron spin is in bright pale blue.
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Credit: photonics

Researchers at Simon Fraser University have made a crucial breakthrough in the development of quantum technology.

Their research, published in Nature today describes their observations of more than 150,000 silicon “T-center” photon-spin qubits, a milestone that opens up immediate opportunities to build massively scalable quantum computers and the quantum internet that will connect them.

Quantum computing has enormous potential to provide computing power far beyond the capabilities of today’s supercomputers, which could enable advances in many other fields, including chemistry, materials science, medicine and cybersecurity.

For this to become a reality, it is necessary to produce both stable and long-lived qubits that provide processing power, as well as the communication technology that allows these qubits to link together at scale.

Previous research has indicated that silicon can produce some of the most stable and durable qubits in the industry. Now, research published by Daniel Higginbottom, Alex Kurkjian and their co-authors provides proof-of-principle that T-centers, a specific luminescent defect in silicon, can provide a “photonic link” between qubits. This comes from the SFU Silicon Quantum Technology Lab in SFU’s Department of Physics, co-directed by Stephanie Simmons, Canada Research Chair in Silicon Quantum Technologies and Michael Thewalt, Professor Emeritus.

“This work is the first measurement of single isolated T-centers and, indeed, the first measurement of a single spin in silicon to be performed with only optical measurements,” says Stephanie Simmons.

“A transmitter like the T-center that combines high-performance spin qubits and optical photon generation is ideal for creating scalable, distributed quantum computers because they can handle processing and communications together, rather than having to interface two different quantum technologies, one for processing and one for communications,” says Simmons.

In addition, T centers have the advantage of emitting light at the same wavelength used today by metropolitan fiber optic communication and telecommunications network equipment.

“With T-centers, you can build quantum processors that inherently communicate with other processors,” says Simmons. “When your silicon qubit can communicate by emitting photons (light) in the same band used in data centers and fiber networks, you get the same benefits for connecting the millions of qubits needed for quantum computing.”

The development of quantum technology using silicon offers opportunities to rapidly scale quantum computing. The global semiconductor industry is already able to manufacture silicon computer chips on a large scale and at low cost, with a staggering degree of precision. This technology forms the backbone of modern computing and networking, from smartphones to the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

“By finding a way to create silicon quantum computing processors, you can leverage all the years of development, knowledge and infrastructure used to make conventional computers, rather than creating a whole new industry for quantum manufacturing. “, says Simmons. “This represents an almost insurmountable competitive advantage in the international quantum computing race.”


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