UofG lends support to £6.5m quantum computing consortium
Researchers from the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering are part of a £6.5m consortium which aims to accelerate the development of quantum computing.
The funding, from Innovate UK, will be shared by a seven-member consortium led by sureCore to jointly develop advanced cryogenic semiconductor IP.
Academic groups from the University and spinout company Semiwise will contribute their expertise to the consortium.
This will dramatically accelerate the growth of the quantum computing industry by reducing the constraints associated with interconnects, thus enabling efficient qubit/system scaling.
The architecture of quantum computers combined with specialist algorithms have the power to transform computing efficiency to address problems in disciplines spanning fundamental science, pharmaceuticals, finance, logistics and AI.
Most leading quantum computing platforms utilise qubits or components that operate at cryogenic temperatures. The key challenge for these platforms is the lack of availability of suitable control circuitry capable of operating at the cryogenic temperatures needed to manage qubits operation.
Currently, the control circuitry is located remotely from the qubits and connected by expensive and bulky cabling in order to avoid the temperature extremes needed by the qubits. The amount of cabling required for all the qubits presents a fundamental barrier to the scaling of quantum computing, aside from the inherent latency impact.
The obvious solution is to co-locate the control electronics with the qubits in the cryostat but this means that both must be kept at ultra-low temperatures; in some implementations down to near absolute zero.
However, not only is space extremely limited in the cryostat, necessitating the miniaturisation of the control circuity, but the modern semiconductors that make up these chips are only qualified to work down to -40° C. As the temperature is reduced close to absolute zero, the operating characteristics of the transistors change markedly. The aim of this project is to essentially understand and model this change in behaviour and then design a portfolio of CryoCMOS IP to enable the creation of custom chips that can interface to the qubits at cryogenic temperatures and support controller functionality.
The consortium consists of the complete ecosystem of companies to provide the core competencies required to rapidly develop this cryo-tolerant IP. This would then be available under license for companies to create their own Cryo-CMOS chip solutions using it, turbo charging them with a competitive edge in the world of Quantum Computing.
The first step is accurately modelling how transistors work at these temperatures. This is being done by the University of Glasgow spin-out Semiwise and the QC and microelectronic research groups at the University of Glasgow.
Synopsys uses the data generated to refine its TCAD tools. A combination of measurements and simulation data will be used by Semiwise to re-centre the foundry PDK for cryogenic temperatures and to enable the cryogenic circuit design.
As memory plays a key role in the electronics, this aspect is handled by sureCore, which is leading the project and whose expertise at keeping chip power consumption low is vital to ensure that waste heat is kept to a minimum, so it does not heat the chamber.
Cryogenic expertise is provided by Oxford Instruments which manufactures cryogenic systems.
Lastly, Universal Quantum and SEEQC represent end-user needs and will determine what IP blocks the project will need to create for the Cryo-CMOS chips. Test chips will be characterised at the cryogenic temperatures to further refine and validate the models and IP.
Professor Martin Weides, Professor of Quantum Technologies and lead of the Quantum Circuits Group at the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering, said: “The development of cryoelectronics for quantum computing combines scientific challenge, intellectual beauty, and practical utility. The University of Glasgow is an internationally recognised centre of excellence in quantum technology, from fundamental understanding through to translating world-changing technologies to industry, and our Centre for Quantum Technology plays a fundamental role in the UK National Quantum Technology Programme.”
Dr Hadi Heidari, Senior Lecturer and lead of the University’s Microelectronics Lab, added: “We are delighted to be working with our consortium partners to deliver Cryo-CMOS design and implementation for two quantum computing platforms and to train the next generation of researchers in cryogenics and microelectronics for quantum.”
There are a large number of QC companies starting up in the UK. This project will help to make cryo-IP available to all of them so that they will be fast tracked in the race to provide QC solutions enabling the UK to be seen as a centre of competence for QC. By working as a team, the project expects to be able to achieve results in less than three years rather than the many years it would take working as individuals.
First published: 5 November 2021