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Germanium for Quantum Computing

On a fundamental level, computing systems rely on the ability to store and manipulate information represented and stored as a stream of electrical or optical pulses in the form of binary states 0 and 1. On the other hand, Quantum computers leverage quantum mechanical phenomena to manipulate information. To do this, they rely on quantum bits or qubits, which are typically subatomic particles such as electrons or photons. Companies use superconducting circuits cooled to temperatures colder than deep space to isolate the qubits in a controlled quantum state. The two-level system of a qubit exhibits quantum mechanics properties like ‘superposition’, and ‘entanglement’. An atom’s electrons decay and stay intact at the same time, and in the same way, Qubits can represent numerous possible combinations of 1 and 0 at the same time. This ability of the qubits to be simultaneous in multiple states is called superposition. They are much like the zeroes and ones of the present binary system, the difference being that usually understood zero or one is either a zero or a one or both at the same time and the information exists in either state at the same time.

Importance of Germanium in Quantum Computing

The key active component in practically all modern electronics is a transistor, which is why these semiconductor switches are considered to be one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Simply put, transistors are tiny on and off switches that represent the standard computer binary system – OFF being a zero state and ON being the one state. Despite silicon having several advantages like wider band gap resulting in less draining power, better thermal conductivity, and being abundant in nature, scientists are resurrecting germanium as a transistor material for quantum computing. In the modern era, the field of quantum technologies has germanium as the emerging and versatile material to make devices that do encoding, processing, and transmit quantum information.

Ge has an energy band gap of 0.72ev and Si has an energy band gap of 1.12ev, thus Ge has a higher conductivity, therefore it is considered as a key material to extend chip performance in computers beyond the limits imposed by miniaturization. In the list of semiconductor materials, germanium is not the only high-mobility material. The III-V compounds, such as gallium arsenide and indium arsenide, also possess excellent electron mobility. In fact, the mobility of electrons in indium arsenide is nearly 30 times that of the mobility of electrons in silicon. But there is a problem, this amazing property is not extended to the holes in indium arsenide, which are not much more mobile than holes in silicon. When close to room temperature, the electrons in Germanium move nearly three times as readily as they do in silicon. And the holes-the space that is lacking in an electron-move about four times as easily. The faster these holes and electrons can move, the faster the resulting circuits can be. And since less voltage is required to overcome the band gap and draw those charge carriers along, circuits can also consume considerably less energy. This means the flipping of the switch is much faster in a germanium transistor than a silicon transistor and the Ge current-carrying channel allows moving current at greater rates. Building transistors with such channels could help engineers continue to make faster and more energy-efficient circuits which make germanium more potent material for operating with qubits, the basic unit of quantum information, which would mean better computers, smartphones, and other gadgets for years to come.

Investment Trend

The data shows the number of patent families filed in Quantum Computing technology in the first application year. Quantum computing patents were filed in great amounts from 2015 onwards in the areas of healthcare, environmental systems, energy, fintech, smart materials, and cybersecurity and now the markets have matured in suitable geolocations, so the IT industry is expected to be excited about filing more patents and evolve the capabilities of quantum computing technology. Google also announced Quantum Supremacy in October 2019 with their 54-qubit Sycamore processor chip that performs the computation in 200 seconds. This led to countries and companies rising to the competition and that makes it evident that the quantum race has just started, and it’s not just between major nation-states but also between the industry leaders like Google and IBM.

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