Australia's place in the semiconductor world: IP is the key, says quantum computing hopeful - Australian Manufacturing Forum

Australia’s place in the semiconductor world: IP is the key, says quantum computing hopeful – Australian Manufacturing Forum

Today, as Australia’s place in the semiconductor world, we consider ASX-listed Archer Materials, which is developing a quantum processor. Brent Balinski spoke with CEO Dr. Mohammad Choucair.

Many things are impossible, as the quote says, until they are done. At this point, building a practical quantum computer remains impossible.

Asked about his company’s approach to the challenge, based on a 2016 paper involving carbon nanospheres, the CEO Dr. Mohammad Choucair compares it to another breakthrough he had earlier in his career with graphene.

This was the beginnings of the material, originally made by separating sheets of graphite with adhesive tape.

Choucair, now CEO of Archer Materials, showed before and during his PhD research that graphene could be made from alcohol, challenging the belief that one had to start with graphite.

“I remember we filed a patent application… which had just been titled graphene“, he tells us, highlighting the beginning of research on nanomaterials.

“It was a one-word title.”

He says Archer Materials’ quantum computing approach challenges the idea that you have to choose between materials that require near absolute zero temperature (and need million-dollar refrigeration systems) but are capable of be integrated with electronics, or room-temperature compatible approaches like photonics, which cannot.

Progress this year included an announcement last month that they had developed a CMOS chip (manufactured by TMSC) to detect quantum information at room temperature on one of Archer’s qubits.

Time will tell if Archer is able to develop processors, which they call 12CQ, that can run inside phones and laptops, without the need for dilution refrigerators.

But if they can do the impossible, could they build their chipsets here?

This seems like another impossible request for the company, who announced in September they will work with contract manufacturer GlobalFoundries to advance 12CQ’s development on device and circuit designs, as well as high-volume manufacturing.

Like with Bluechiip’s Andrew McLellan in yesterday’s article for this series, Choucair says their locally developed intellectual property will be retained here, although the capacity for manufacturing simply does not exist in Australia.

“Intellectual property in technology, in the semiconductor industry, is extremely important. And if you look at the priorities of a lot of semiconductor companies, IP will be at the top,” says Choucair.

“You can see around the world, and I don’t want to get into geopolitics, but no company or entity or sovereign or anything has the ability to control the supply chain end to end. But there is essential to retain this intellectual property.

In this episode of @AuManufacturing Conversations with Brent BalinskiChoucair shares the company’s progress on its quantum processor (it’s also developing a biosensor), where he thinks the nation can make a difference in the semiconductor value chain, which it would take to establish local manufacturing chips, and more.

“We have the facilities, I believe, here in Australia, locally, to do certain things, and some very well. Especially around the development of advanced materials,” he says.

“Do we have foundries that are worth $50 billion and spit out millions of wafers every week? No, we don’t. But that doesn’t mean we never will.

Episode guide

0:26 – Work in progress and introduction to Archer

1:16 – What drew him to science and then to nanotechnology.

3:30 – A first breakthrough using graphite-free graphene.

4:50 p.m. – Be interested in commercializing research results early on.

6:38 – The size of the company and who makes up its team.

8:10 a.m. – The 2016 breakthrough, allowing the company to search for quantum qubits that can operate at room temperature.

11:30 a.m. – Recognizing a second paradigm shift, similar to the fabrication of graphene without graphite.

2:10 p.m. – Silicon won for transistors, but we don’t know what will win for qubits.

17:55 – Why you shouldn’t listen to the naysayers.

20:10 – Progress in technological development is not linear.

22:10 – What does it mean to incorporate what they do into modern electronics, and why is it so difficult with qubits?

25:10 – Facilities in Australia that Archer uses.

11:55 p.m. – Praise for the Australian National Manufacturing Facility (Full disclosure: ANFF is the sponsor of this series.)

29:36 – Onshore production is unlikely, if it reaches commercial maturity. IP is the thing. The greatest value is in R&D.

32:40 – Expansion beyond design and R&D in Australia is possible, and we shouldn’t give up. If we had the will from the top to do it, then it will be done. “If we have the will, we can pave the way for the high-tech industry in Australia.”

Photo: credit ANFF

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