Not just for quantum computing and not just for academics

UNSW is home to a vast array of world-class nano and micro-fabrication tools, available to electronics manufacturers looking for an edge in product development. Brent Balinski spoke to ANFF NSW’s Dr Nadia Court about the Kensington labs.

Australia, and in particular Sydney, has emerged as an area of great quantum computer expertise.

Last week the University of Sydney opened a $150 million nanoscience hub – including a $10 million quantum lab – at an event attended by Microsoft senior executives. On Friday, fellow sandstone university UNSW had the PM officially open its new Centre for Computation and Communication Technology, heralding its work as the best in the world.

UNSW has been at the front of the race to build a quantum computer since the 1990s, focusing on a silicon-based approach to fabrication.

Last October researchers announced they had built a quantum logic gate in silicon – the world’s first – getting two quantum bits in silicon “to talk to each other”

Silicon’s half-century of history means a head start over other potential methods for making a quantum computer, with trillions of dollars and many, many careers already invested in silicon manufacturing. 

“We know we can do it because we’ve basically done it with the whole computing industry,” Dr Nadia Court, Projects Manager at the Australian National Fabrication Facility NSW Node, told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

The facility, opened in 2007, is very much involved in making super-small-scale stuff for quantum applications. However, this is only a portion of what goes on at the network of laboratories within UNSW’s Newton Building.

The micro and nanofabrication centre hosts 750 square metres of lab space, more than half of this cleanroom area. The four cleanroom spaces are classed ISO 5, 6 and 7.

The facility is kitted out with over $30 million of state-of-the-art equipment (see list below). A recent addition was a molecular beam epitaxial growth laboratory, opened by education minister Simon Birmingham last October.

Importantly, it’s open access, both to outside researchers and to industry, with highly specialised equipment available nowhere else.

This includes two tools for high-quality molecular beam epitaxy, able to grow novel, atom-depth materials. Both are open access.

“The III-V (3-5) MBE specialises in epitaxy of compound semiconductors and is currently the only open access III-V MBE system in Australia,” pointed out Court.

There is another open access II-VI compound semiconductor MBE system, at the WA node of ANFF in UWA.

(III-V refers to materials including elements in the third and fifth columns of the periodic table.)

“The second ‘Laser MBE’ tool [at ANFF NSW] specialises in oxide epitaxy and is also the only open access tool catering to these materials,” Court added.

Assistance with R&D

Among users of the lab’s expert fabrication capabilities is the country’s only semiconductor manufacturer, Silanna, who use ANFF NSW for left-of-centre bits of development.   

“They’ve got their own R&D facility and have got a cleanroom setup,” explained Court.

“They really only need us when they have a niche that doesn’t suit this.”

Sensor start-up Zedelef (a university spin-out which has seen interest from the defence, and oil and gas sectors) is another guest at the labs. It has used access to develop its hybrid liquid/crystal optical fibre devices, cutting out on the need to invest in capital expense.

“For them we’re providing fee-for-service subscription but also access for their researchers to do assembly of their devices and their prototyping development,” added Court.

“They also have access to process engineering staff for helping process development.”

Expert process engineers and training, as well as tool time, are available for hire at the site. (Rates are available from the facility via enquiry.)

ANFF concedes that overall industry use is currently below what it could be. For the eight nodes across Australia, industry accounts for roughly 20 per cent of total lab hours.

As some have noted, industry/academic engagement in general could be improved, and this is a goal at ANFF

Recent projects

Much of the work that takes place at the site is around semiconductors and advanced nanoelectronics. Some of it has gained global attention, and one effort could perhaps redefine the way electric current is defined.

Nanowire wrap-gate transistor work tackles the challenge of fitting more and better transistors onto a circuit, with physical limits challenging the continuation of Moore’s Law.

The limit of how small transistors can be made is getting nearer, and chip companies have taken to building these up into 3D structures.

“The problem is once you go smaller and smaller you can potentially also get leakage out – it’s only constrained at three sides, not four,” explained Court of electron flows. At that scale, things also tend to get fiddly.

Research using electron beam lithography (ANFF NSW possesses three EBL machines) to align the gates and interconnects, as well as the structures contacting the nanowire, show the potential of horizontal nanowires, which are tipped over after being chemically “grown” upwards.

“What the guys from UNSW have been doing with collaborators in Sweden is [based on] ‘what happens if you just knock those nanowires over?’ And then we can have a look at reducing complexity,” said Court.

“Basically what they did is to show that for two, three, five transistors they see no degradation in the performance of the transistors. But that’s only one fabrication step, as opposed to maybe five or six individual fabrication steps per transistor.”

Another piece of work at the nano-scale was around creating a quantum-dot transistor – a silicon electron pump – able to pump 500 million electrons per second at 99.997 per cent accuracy.

It is hoped that such a quantum device will be able to improve in accuracy further still and serve as a way of redefining the basic unit of current, the amp.

“It’s kind of cool that we might be potentially in some way linked to a quantum standard for electrical current,” offered Court. A team led by UNSW’s Professor Andrew Dzurak is working with the National Physical Laboratory and researchers in Finland to optimise this further.

And of course, the facilities’ atomic-level precision fabrication capabilities will continue to be used as the university sprints towards the goal of a working silicon-based quantum computer. It hopes to have a 10-qubit prototype up and running within five years.

The expertise in this field both at the university and within Australia is starting to get a lot of attention, including from private enterprise. Following the announcement last October, for example, both the Commonwealth Bank (which already invested $5 million in 2014) and Telstra announced $10 million of support for the project. 

“That was all made here at UNSW,” Court proudly pointed out of the logic gate.

“And I think Australia is starting to get known for how good they are at quantum computing.”

ANFF NSW

02 9385 7845

www.anff-nsw.org

 

NSW node capabilities (from http://www.anff.org.au/nsw-node-capabilities.html)

Jipelec rapid thermal annealing furnace – University of New South Wales view more details

Anneal Furnace – Clean Anneal – University of New South Wales view more details

Anneal Furnace – General Purpose – University of New South Wales view more details

Diffusion Furnace – Phosphorus – University of New South Wales view more details

Diffusion Furnace – Boron – University of New South Wales view more details

Oxidation Furnace – General Purpose – University of New South Wales view more details

Oxidation Furnace – Dry Oxidation – University of New South Wales view more details

Vacutec Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapour Deposition System – University of New South Wales view more details

CNT Savannah S200 atomic layer deposition system ALD – University of New South Wales view more details

Edwards sputtering system – University of New South Wales view more details

HHV sputtering system – University of New South Wales view more details

Edwards thermal evaporator – University of New South Wales view more details

Lesker Thermal Evaporator – University of New South Wales view more details

Lesker PVD75 e-beam evaporator – general purpose – University of New South Wales view more details

Lesker PVD75 e-beam evaporator – MOS – University of New South Wales view more details

Denton O2 plasma asher – University of New South Wales view more details

Vacutec reactive ion etching system – University of New South Wales view more details

Hollow-cathode reactive ion etching system – University of New South Wales view more details

STS inductively coupled plasma reactive ion etching ICP RIE – University of New South Wales view more details

Suite of resist processing tools (spinners and hotplates) – University of New South Wales view more details

Quintel Q6000 mask aligner Single wafer – University of New South Wales view more details

Quintel Q6000 mask aligner single chip – University of New South Wales view more details

Karl Suss MA6/BA6 mask aligner – University of New South Wales view more details

FEI Sirion/NPGS electron beam lithography system EBL – University of New South Wales view more details

Raith 150TWO electron beam lithography system EBL – University of New South Wales view more details

Muffle furnace – University of New South Wales view more details

FEI Sirion scanning electron microscope EBL – University of New South Wales view more details

Suite of optical microscopy tools – University of New South Wales view more details

DI 3100 atomic force microscope AFM – University of New South Wales view more details

Dektak 2A profilometer – University of New South Wales view more details

Dektak 3030 profilometer – University of New South Wales view more details

Dektak 150 profilometer – University of New South Wales view more details

JA Woollam spectroscopic ellipsometer – University of New South Wales view more details

Four point probe – University of New South Wales view more details

Micromanipulator probe station – University of New South Wales view more details

DAD3240 dicing saw – University of New South Wales view more details

Karl Suss Wafer Scriber – University of New South Wales view more details

K&S Au ball bonder – University of New South Wales view more details

K&S Au ball bonder (digital) – University of New South Wales view more details

K&S 4523 Al wedge bonder – University of New South Wales view more details