By Peter Roberts
An announcement by technology group Silex Systems (ASX: SLX) that it will make silicon suitable for fabricating quantum computing chips shows the way forward for Australian involvement in this emerging manufacturing sector.
Silex has entered into a R&D project with Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC), a spin off from the University of NSW, to provide ZS-Si, an enriched form of silicon to be used in quantum computer chips.
The University of NSW is a world leader in research in quantum computers, which store data at the sub-atomic level thus enabling faster and more capable computers.
However whether Australia would be able to get in on the manufacturing of these new devices, apart from providing R&D technology, has been in question.
Now Silex will use a variation of its SILEX laser isotope separation technology to produce ZS-Si which SQC will turn into quantum chips.
The technology is being commercialised by the GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment joint venture to enrich uranium for the nuclear industry.
SQC will pay cash and acquire shares in Silex to the value of $1.8 million in return for the enriched silicon, and has agreed to purchase the material from Silex should it move to manufacturing.
The development is an exciting extension of what is mainly a scientific effort underway in Sydney for the past decade to take part in the emerging quantum computing revolution.
The university was the first in the world to successfully store and retrieve data at the sub-atomic level, with the data stored by altering the spin of the electrons in a single silicon atom.
The University, federal and state governments, Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank have been backing SQC, but the latest news leads toward the prospect of Australian manufacture of the new silicon quantum computer chips.
Australia largely missed out on taking part in the silicon chip industry, and today has only one large scale manufacturer of chips.
Could we in this case be in on the ground floor of a new manufacturing wave?
Could we in this case manage to convert R&D leadership into a new manufacturing sector?
Only time to tell, but there is now hope that after so many disappointments where Australian inventions are commercialised overseas, we might just be on the verge of a breakthrough of immense national importance.
Picture: Silex Systems
Subscribe to our free @AuManufacturing newsletter here.