The Department of Physics heads National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) for the development of a silicon-based quantum computer

Researchers around the world are looking for suitable ways to develop a quantum computer. At present, there are a number of approaches for the building blocks that could make up the supercomputer of the future. The realization of a quantum computer that can cope with previously unsolved tasks of high practical importance poses an immense challenge with every approach. The main problem is the limited scalability of existing systems.

This is where the NCCR “SPIN: Spin-Qubits in Silicon” comes in. The aim is to develop an exceptionally scalable technology that will enable the construction of a universally usable quantum computer. Prof. Dr. Richard J. Warburton and his team are focusing on the semiconductor silicon, which has proven itself in industry for decades. They are convinced that silicon technology is extremely promising for enabling the on-chip integration of billions of devices. This would lead to particularly powerful quantum computers. 

The researchers in the “SPIN” team have been working successfully for many years on questions of quantum computing using spin qubits, although so far, they have mainly worked with other semiconductors. The production of silicon nanostructures for qubits is particularly demanding and is carried out in cooperation with IBM Research-Zurich. This industrial research laboratory has the necessary expertise in silicon nanofabrication and will, among other things, manufacture prototypes from silicon components.



Initially, the main objective of the NCCR “SPIN” will be to develop reliable, fast, compact and scalable spin qubits in silicon. In the medium term, the results should make it possible to use spin qubits to perform calculations that would be impossible without a quantum computer. The long-term goal to which the NCCR “SPIN” wants to make a fundamental contribution is the creation of a universally usable quantum computer with more than a thousand logical qubits that are each based on a large number of spin qubits and work with no errors due to “quantum error correction”.

The funding of an NCCR is spread over three funding phases, each lasting four years. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is supporting the NCCR with CHF 17 million in the first funding phase from 2020 to 2023.

The team of directors of the NCCR “SPIN”: Prof. Daniel Loss (Co-Director), Prof. Richard J. Warburton (Director) and Prof. Jelena Klinovaja (Deputy Co-Director) (from left to right; not in the picture: Dr. Heike Riel, Deputy Director). Photo: © Christian Flierl, University of Basel.

Interdisciplinary network
The NCCR “SPIN” is led by Professor Richard J. Warburton with the support of Professor Daniel Loss (Co-Director), Dr. Heike Riel from IBM Research – Zurich (Deputy Director) and Professor Jelena Klinovaja (Deputy Co-Director).

A total of 19 research group heads are involved: seven from the University of Basel, six from IBM Research – Zurich, four from ETH Zurich, and two from EPF Lausanne. In addition to the collaboration between academia and industry, the NCCR “SPIN” is characterized by very close links between theory and experimentation.

It brings together academic and industrial partners and combines knowledge gained over decades of research into quantum computers on the one hand, and into the miniaturization of silicon nanostructures on the other. The NCCR “SPIN” team consists of experts from various disciplines, such as quantum physics, engineering sciences, computer science and materials science.