Workers at SkyWater’s manufacturing facility in Bloomington, MN, USA. [Image: SkyWater] [Enlarge image]
The US semiconductor engineering and fabrication foundry SkyWater announced in early May an expanded development and production agreement with the California-based quantum computing firm PsiQuantum. The companies will partner to design and produce silicon photonic chips at SkyWater’s manufacturing facility in Bloomington, MN, USA, in what they say in a press release is a “significant step” toward securing global leadership of quantum computing.
Beyond one million qubits
Quantum computing is widely thought to promise novel applications in fields such as energy, finance, health care, transportation and government, and there are a number of approaches for realizing its potential. The stated aim of PsiQuantum—which received US$450 million in Series D funding in 2021—is to build a commercially viable quantum computer with fault tolerance and error correction, an objective that the firm believes will require scaling to and beyond one million physical qubits.
A PsiQuantum silicon wafer. [Image: PsiQuantum]
To this end, PsiQuantum has embraced the use of single photons, as opposed to other options such as superconducting circuits and trapped ions, and worked to leverage advanced semiconductor manufacturing techniques. The company says this method has significant technical advantages at the million-qubit scale it’s shooting for. The expanded agreement with SkyWater will support this goal by “bringing together world-class expertise in photonic quantum computing and silicon photonics,” according to the press release.
Technology as a service
SkyWater, described as the only US-owned pure-play silicon foundry, will produce PsiQuantum’s chips using 200-mm silicon wafers. The company notes that its “technology as a service” (TaaS) model allows efficient development and production of advanced technologies, including quantum tech, in a production fab. TaaS involves forming collaborative teams with customers to combine SkyWater’s process-technology expertise with the customer’s device knowledge, then manufacturing the resulting devices at SkyWater’s foundries.
The company writes in the release that its silicon photonics integration and manufacturing capabilities will enable PsiQuantum to develop quantum chips that can be measured and tested for long-term reliability—essential for successfully executing the millions or billions of gate operations required for quantum algorithms.
Key to quantum success
SkyWater’s manufacturing facility in Bloomington, MN, USA. [Image: SkyWater]
Both firms are enthusiastic about the increased engagement and optimistic about future outcomes. Steve Kosier, SkyWater’s chief technology officer, says engineering teams from the two companies are working together to “co-create the reality of a quantum-enabled world,” and adds that SkyWater looks forward to supporting PsiQuantum through development and into its production ramp.
“Having domestic fabs with proven manufacturing capability and the development flexibility to support our required process flows is key to the success of our product plans,” commented Fariba Danesh, chief operating officer at PsiQuantum. “PsiQuantum is not only innovating in quantum architecture, but our teams are also driving advanced front-end-of-line process innovation, and the ability to use unique process tooling in a proven factory will accelerate our program.”