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­ltra Pure Silicon Could Pave Way For More Quantum Computing Research

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A sphere of ultra-pure silicon-28.

A new method of producing ultra-pure silicon could provide enough material for research into its use in quantum computers.

Credit: CSIRO Precision Optics

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a much less expensive and easier way of producing ultra-pure silicon.

The team made samples of a particular isotope of silicon, known as silicon-28, which are 99.9998 percent pure, using mass spectrometry equipment found in many labs. The equipment enabled the team to produce silicon ions from commercial silane gas. The isotopes are separated in a magnetic sector analyzer before being deposited onto a silicon substrate.

The method was an unexpectedly simple solution, says NIST researcher Joshua Pomeroy. Ultra-pure silicon could boost research in quantum computers, as silicon this pure will be less prone to interference than silicon normally found in processors.

Thin films of silicon-28 were produced in very small quantities, but the new method should provide enough material for research into quantum computers to continue and also enable other researchers worldwide to synthesize their own pure silicon-28.

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