Editorial Feature

What to Know About Silicon Nitride in Quantum Computers

The field of quantum computing, which promises seamless and unparalleled computational power, has seen significant progress in the past decade. The choice of material for the fabrication of components such as microchips and processors to be integrated into the quantum computer plays an important role in determining its performance.

Silicon nitride (Si3N4) in recent years has gained significant attention because of its advantageous properties and is being incorporated into quantum computer architecture. Specifically, for quantum qubits, quantum integrated photonics, and waveguides, silicon nitride is a preferred choice, enabling quantum computers to reach new levels of efficiency and computational powers.

Silicon Nitride, Silicon Nitride in Quantum Computers

Image Credit: Saigh Anees/Shutterstock.com

Silicon Photonics with Microelectronics: Powering the Next Generation of Quantum Computers

Silicon photonics (SiP) is playing an essential role in the development of state-of-the-art chip platforms for quantum computers. It is utilized in the creation of versatile networks with numerous individual components, facilitating the computation of quantum states generated on-chip. It also finds application in specific tasks, such as generating random quantum numbers and quantum transmission.

The latest study in Nanoscale states that silicon nitride is the most matured substance in the silicon family utilized extensively for photonics research and development. It has the unique ability to be implemented in photonics applications at wavelengths less than 1.1µm.

Connecting silicon photonics with complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) microelectronics enables the development of compact quantum devices for advanced applications in sensing, communication, and quantum computing.

Recent research has demonstrated that combining silicon Nano-photonics with microelectronics enhances the performance of homodyne detectors, which are essential for estimating quantum states and representing quantum processes. These detectors serve as specialized hardware designed for precise light measurement. The integration of photonics with microelectronics for homodyne detectors significantly improved the performance, achieving speeds in the gigahertz range, thus greatly enhancing the computational speed of quantum computers.

Silicon nitride photonics, utilized for data transmission and sensing applications, are expected to be the future of data-intensive computing, particularly in the context of distributed edge computing and 5G networks. Furthermore, silicon photonic components are increasingly becoming a notable computing platform. Ultimately, silicon nitride stands as a crucial element in photonics, offering a promising avenue for the development of advanced quantum computers.

Industrial Case Study: Silicon Nitride Photonic Integrated Circuits for Quantum Computers by Quix Quantum

Several integrated photonics manufacturing companies are preferring the use of Silicon Nitride in photonic chips for quantum computers. Quix Quantum BV, a leading manufacturer from the Netherlands, released a white paper highlighting the advantages of Silicon Nitride and their technology for utilizing it in their applications.

The company uses silicon nitride waveguides for photonics fabricated by employing the TriPleX technology. This technology is used to fabricate photonic circuits by alternating well-defined and highly stable alternating layers of silicon nitride. This unique technology offers a combination of strong integration potential and considerable design flexibility, allowing for the customization of waveguide properties.

These Si3N4 waveguides are encased within an LPCVD silicon dioxide (SiO2) cladding. The silicon nitride material has a broad transparency range spanning from 405 nm to 2350 nm. Furthermore, TriPleX waveguides boast impressively low reported waveguide losses, ranging from 0.1 dB/cm down to 0.1 dB/m.

QuiX Quantum uses a unique asymmetric double stripe waveguide cross section for the manufacturing of photonic processors utilized in quantum computers. This configuration consists of a combination of two distinct layers: a thin lower Si3N4 layer and a thick upper Si3N4 layer. The photonic processors developed by QuiX Quantum are designed to process numerous light modes and find applications in various scenarios, including large multimode interferometric experiments, matrix multiplication, and quantum computing.

Silicon Nitride: A Stable Qubit Platform for Quantum Computers

The fundamental building blocks of quantum computers are qubits. Silicon-based qubits have gained attention due to the potential to leverage existing semiconductor fabrication techniques. Silicon Nitride quits offer advantages such as long coherence times and compatibility with current semiconductor manufacturing processes.

Research studies all over the world are being performed to encode and manipulate quantum information in silicon nitride-based qubits efficiently. These research efforts include the utilization of the material's electron spin or the energy levels in defects within the silicon nitride lattice. By manipulating these properties, qubits can be created and controlled, leading to advancements in quantum information processing.

Superconducting qubits, which rely on Josephson junctions, are a viable choice for the production of quantum processors. Silicon nitride is an ideal substrate for these qubits because of its superior thermal conductivity, resulting in effective cooling and low dielectric losses that reduce qubit dephasing. Recent studies have demonstrated that silicon nitride resonators can be employed to influence superconducting qubits, potentially leading to more robust and coherent quantum operations.

Reconfigurable Silicon Nitride Processors for Quantum Computers

Optical quantum information processing (QIP) with quantum computers is focused on addressing computational tasks like quantum simulation and quantum machine learning. Typically, this involves employing photons for information transmission and large-scale interferometers for computation.

On-chip linear optical networks support a range of quantum information and communication protocols. Silicon nitride (Si3N4) is a preferred choice owing to its unique characteristics, including high index contrast for minimal bend loss and extremely low straight-propagation loss.

Researchers in Optics Express successfully developed an 8 × 8-mode reconfigurable and fully adaptable photonic processor utilizing silicon nitride waveguides. The research team verified the functionality of multiple photonic quantum information processing components, including Hong-Ou-Mandel interference and high-dimensional single-photon quantum gates. Furthermore, the results depicted its capability to maintain the coherence of quantum states by programming the system for quantum interference.

Silicon Nitride Chips for Fault Tolerance-Based Quantum Computers

Xanadu and Imec have joined forces to design photonic chips tailored for fault-tolerant quantum computing. The main objective is to develop a quantum computing system capable of running any algorithm while detecting and rectifying errors that could impact the calculations, thus accommodating a substantial number of qubits. This project involves the development of low-loss silicon nitride circuits optimized to correct qubit errors and enhance processing capacity.

The photonic chip employs light rather than electrons for data transport. This innovative approach provides several benefits, including the potential for scalability up to one million qubits via optical networks, the capability for room temperature computing, and the inherent advantage of leveraging manufacturing processes.

Silicon Nitride is the leading choice for the development of quantum qubits, integrated circuit photonics for quantum computers, and waveguides. The recent developments and implementation of modern technology are leading to better and more efficient silicon nitride-based quantum architectures whose modularity, computational speed, information processing, and room temperature optimized operational capability will play a vital role in boosting the production of much more efficient quantum computers.

More from AZoQuantum: The Quantum Mechanical Model of Atoms

References and Further Reading

Gupta, R. et. al. (2023). Silicon photonics interfaced with microelectronics for integrated photonic quantum technologies: a new era in advanced quantum computers and quantum communications?. Nanoscale. 15. 4682-4693. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1039/D2NR05610K

Emilio, M., (2021). Photonic Chips for Fault-Tolerance Quantum Computing. [Online]
Available at: https://www.eetimes.eu/photonic-chips-for-fault-tolerance-quantum-computing/

Taballione, C. et. al. (2019). 8× 8 reconfigurable quantum photonic processor based on silicon nitride waveguides. Optics express27(19), 26842-26857. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1364/OE.27.026842

Quix Quantum, (2023). White Paper: Silicon Nitride Building Blocks. [Online]
Available at: https://www.quixquantum.com/whitepaper/silicon-nitride-building-blocks

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Ibtisam Abbasi

Written by

Ibtisam Abbasi

Ibtisam graduated from the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. During his academic career, he has worked on several research projects and has successfully managed several co-curricular events such as the International World Space Week and the International Conference on Aerospace Engineering. Having won an English prose competition during his undergraduate degree, Ibtisam has always been keenly interested in research, writing, and editing. Soon after his graduation, he joined AzoNetwork as a freelancer to sharpen his skills. Ibtisam loves to travel, especially visiting the countryside. He has always been a sports fan and loves to watch tennis, soccer, and cricket. Born in Pakistan, Ibtisam one day hopes to travel all over the world.


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