Quantum Engineering for Silicon Technology

  • Enrico Prati profile
    Enrico Prati
    30 April 2016 - updated 2 years ago
    Total votes: 0

The semiconductor annual revenue of Europe has remained substantially unchanged since 2000,

while the market has expanded of a factor of two. Such decrease of market

share by about a half, despite the increase in demand, can be attributed to a number of factors,

including insufficient creation of new actors, insufficient technology transfer from the public

research environment to industry and a lack of measures to create a single domain. The size of

semiconductor industries in the European Union is comparable to those of Taiwan, just

fragmented across many sites.

Novel application of widely studied quantum phenomena such as superposition, quantum

parallelism, wavefunction collapse and entanglement could be in principle exploited to radically

improve functionalities for several applications, ranging from solving optimization problems such

as protein folding, molecular matching, medical applications, stock market simulations, to

communication systems, space industry and biological analysis1.

One of the biggest obstacles to convert successful demonstration of the working principles of

quantum phenomena to massively produced industrial applications, beneficial to society, is the

lack of an engineered approach to the full stack of technologies and elements required to ensure

repeatability, scalability and massive control of quantum effects. Atomic scale fabrication of

electronic devices is expected to boost advancements beyond as well as alternate to Moore’s

law. However, there is still a lack of the complete supply chain ranging from the building-blocks

such as atoms and electrons, to packaging and control based on standard electronics, physically

and robustly realising theoretical models. Such gap prevents the full exploitation of quantum

mechanics in high impact information and communication technologies and a boost of the IT

market. The challenges facing quantum information technologies are highlighted by:

1) the lack of investment in engineered methods for atomic scale fabrication,

2) the lack of integration with standard semiconductor technology,

3) the absence of electronic design for practical quantum control.

4) the insufficient robust control methods helping to enable advanced functionalities of complex,

realistic quantum devices


The quantum technologies applied to the silicon arena may provide the seed of a new

innovation ecosystem positioned in the field of silicon technology and focused to generate new

knowledge, to activate market opportunities and involve new and high potential actors by offering

new technological solutions compatible with existing technology.

The ecosystem obtained by the development of quantum technologies applied to silicon platform

provides a hub for semiconductor companies interested to exploit novel functionalities based

on existing materials, thanks to the added value developed in the quantum technology

framework, provided that all the aspects of the supply chain are covered. The key point is to

exploit existing resources, by renewing the existing supply chain, by extending it to quantum

technologies and achieve unprecedented functionalities.

The challenging and innovative target is to exploit the industrially mature silicon platform for

developing the full stack of building blocks from theory of quantum control and algorithms, to

applied physics of serial atomic scale fabrication methods, to industrial process-compatible

silicon control electronics, to serial prototypes for innovative industrial applications.

Such radically new fabrication, integration and control methods, relying on atom based silicon

technology, will lead to applications such as loop controlled atomic qubit ports, quantum random

number generators, and room temperature single-photon emitters and detectors.


EU already invested in the years in quantum technologies, for instance the Coordination and

Support Action QUAINT established a quantum control community across Europe, represented

as virtual facility in QUROPE - Quantum Information Processing and Communication in Europe.

In 2016 the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, G Oettinger, has

announced the intention of the European Commission to fund a 1B EUR flagship-like initiative on

Quantum Technologies. Currently, the discussion inherent the Quantum Technology Flagship

has been based on the vision carried in the years by the QUROPE platform, which arranges the

quantum technologies in a matrix of Virtual Institutes (Quantum Computation, Communication,

Simulation.. etc) and Virtual Facilities (Quantum Control and Quantum Engineering)4. Our vision

is to extend such platform along a third dimension (the Supply Chain) and to develop

quantum engineering in silicon technologies to enable the widest possible utilisation of quantum

technologies in all applications to benefit European industry and consequently society. Such

model can be extended to other existing platforms such as III-V semiconductors, organic

materials, etc. The silicon industry platform may provide the first arena for the development of a

complete supply chain from the quantum technologies to industry.

The added value of the European initiative on quantum engineering of silicon technologies

consists of

1) the creation of a coordinated and efficient hub to provide novel methods to be transferred to all

the silicon industries based in Europe and in new start-up companies;

2) the exploitation of existing silicon European industrial platform by extending its value chain

instead of replacing it;

3) the implementation of the synergy between novel silicon technologies and existing silicon

technologies, an innovation model to be transferred also to other supply chains for different

materials of relevance such as III-V semiconductors, organic media, etc. for which industrial

processes already exist.