25 November 2020
CSC launches first quantum photonic component foundry
Part-funded by the UK Quantum Technologies Challenge, via UK Research and Innovation, QuantumFoundry (QFoundry) is a three-year, £5.7m project that will use standard semiconductor techniques to scale up the manufacture of quantum components that are critical to a wide range of novel quantum systems.
Quantum technologies are on the brink of emerging from the laboratory into a wide range of industrial and consumer products. Advanced quantum phenomena are being harnessed to create disruptive technologies in areas ranging from ultra-secure communications to highly sensitive imaging and healthcare diagnostics.
As new applications emerge, widescale market adoption of quantum systems will require a robust, commercial-grade source of quantum photonic components, often based on semiconductor devices. The adoption of foundry manufacturing will accelerate mass-market traction, it is reckoned.
Initial areas of focus of QFoundry include vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) for commercial-grade atomic clocks and atomic magnetometers, and single-photon emitters and detectors for quantum communications, computing, imaging and sensing applications.
The consortium is led by the The Compound Semiconductor Centre Ltd (CSC) – a joint venture founded in 2015 between Cardiff University and epiwafer foundry and substrate maker IQE plc of Cardiff, Wales, UK. It also comprises Amethyst Research, Bay Photonics, Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult, CSconnected Ltd, Cardiff University, Integrated Compound Semiconductors (ICS), IQE, Microchip Technology, National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Toshiba Europe, University of Cambridge and University of Sheffield. The consortium will deliver a national open-access quantum semiconductor device foundry.
Members of the consortium have already delivered proof-of-concept quantum devices, and they aim to build on collective capability to create the foundations for robust, scalable quantum component manufacturing in the UK to reduce barriers to commercialization of quantum technologies.
“Widescale adoption of quantum systems need a robust, reliable and volume supply of semiconductor components to integrate into products to deliver a return on investment on the science,” says CSC director Wyn Meredith. “QFoundry can perhaps be described as the missing piece in the pathway to commercialization, and the project will lay the groundwork towards a new UK quantum component industry,” he expects.
“This is part of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme, which is set to make a £1bn investment over its lifetime,” notes Roger McKinlay, challenge director for the Quantum Technologies Challenge. “This impressive team illustrates that the UK can lead in the manufacture of quantum devices, not just the development of the technology,” he adds. “This is not just good business in its own right but also part of a virtuous cycle in which world-class fabrication is underpinning further leading developments in quantum computing, communications, imaging in sensing.”