maxkabakov - Fotolia

Are diamonds a quantum computer’s best friend?

The UK report on quantum tech is out, revealing that synthetic diamonds could play a key role in establishing a niche for the UK quantum sector

An independent study commissioned through the National Quantum Strategy by the Department for Science Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has called for a coordinated effort to support emerging tech.

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Quantum infrastructure review recommends that the UK government upgrade and improve access for industry to existing open access infrastructure. It added that the government should prioritise investment in at least one new flagship facility to support quantum technology development across design, nanofabrication prototyping, packaging, advanced packaging and heterogeneous integration.

The review looked at how to give firms developing with quantum technology access to costly design tools through the government’s ChipStart initiative. The report’s authors noted that while classical electronics can be used for quantum applications, incorporating a quantum component into ChipStart UK would require customisation of design tools, expertise and regulatory guidance, including on intellectual property. However, given the programme’s limited two-year duration, the review’s authors urged the government to provide long-term support and funding.

The review also looked into options for the UK to develop a niche in quantum technologies – one of which is the use of diamonds. The Royal Academy of Engineering noted that with the presence of nitrogen vacancy (NV) centres, diamonds are a versatile emerging material for various quantum applications.

“Its unique combination of quantum properties, such as sensitivity to magnetic fields, long coherence times and room temperature operation makes it a promising candidate for the development of quantum sensors, quantum communication systems and quantum computing,” the report stated.

The report’s authors suggested expansion of facilities such as Element Six, and pulling together foundry-type capabilities that exist in Cardiff and the University of Bristol, to enhance the UK’s synthetic diamond production capacity. This expansion would involve acquiring chemical vapour deposition (CVD) systems designed to facilitate the transition from prototyping to full-scale production, the report’s authors said.

Frances Saunders, who chaired the working group that oversaw the review, said: “The UK has been a frontrunner in quantum technology development to date, but other nations are investing heavily in their own quantum national strategies and infrastructure. We face a choice now about whether and how we want to continue to lead in the exploitation and commercialisation of quantum technologies.”

She urged the government to de-risk the technology development process to make quantum technologies available to more academic facilities as well as small and mid-sized businesses, which she said would facilitate its adoption and commercialisation.

“Without government intervention at this stage, there is a high risk of losing ground to countries making significant investments of their own in quantum,” said Saunders. 

Peter Knight, chair of the UK National Quantum Technology Programme Strategic Advisory Board, said: “The UK has pioneered a world-leading quantum technology programme for the past 10 years and this has evolved to an ambitious future strategy to generate economic and societal value from this great science base.

“To realise this, we will need a coordinated plan for investment in infrastructure, in facilities, interdependencies and supply chains to allow scale-up of this emerging technology.”

Read more about quatum technology

  • Quantum computing bridges the IT and scientific community, and although it may be years away, skills developed during pilot projects are key.
  • Commons Science and Technology Committee is looking for evidence of where the UK’s new quantum strategy needs improvement.

Read more on Chips and processor hardware

Data Center
Data Management