SQC to buy more silicon from Silex Systems

Brandon How

Local laser enrichment firm Silex Systems has secured a commitment from Silicon Quantum Computing to buy more of the key inputs necessary for silicon-based quantum computing.

The ASX-listed company on Tuesday said the value of its offtake agreement with Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC), first signed in 2019, has grown by $1.35 million to $2.25 million.

The revised agreement increases Silicon Quantum Computing’s (SQC) commitment to purchasing quantum-silicon products produced from high purity zero-spin silicon (ZS-Si) using Silex’s laser enrichment technology.

Solid ZS-Si is a necessary input to the quantum chip fabrication process used by SQC and UNSW Sydney.

SQC will also purchase $2 million in Silex shares, as well as make other cash and in-kind contributions to support Silex’s government-backed Quantum Silicon Production Project.

The $16 million project will see the development of an end-to-end quantum silicon production facility at Silex’s Lucas Heights technology centre.

Silex Systems chief executive Michael Goldsworthy

Silex chief executive and managing director Michael Goldsworthy welcomed the increased commitments from SQC, which will help fund the Quantum Silicon Production Project.

“The project aims to establish a secure supply chain for the critical enriched silicon materials required to enable SQC and UNSW Sydney to continue development of their world-leading silicon-based quantum computing technology,” Mr Goldsworthy said.

“The new deal strengthens our commercial partnership, and builds on the successful relationship established over the past four years through our initial ZS-Si demonstration project, which resulted in production of sample quantities of ZS-Si with enrichment of silicon-28 up to 99.9998 per cent purity.”

The demonstration project was successfully completed in April 2023 as a part of the federal government’s cooperative research centres projects program, with the pilot facility built at Lucas Heights using Silex’s laser enrichment technology.

Plans to scale the demonstration facility to establish a quantum silicon production plant at Lucas Heights is underway, with support from SQC, UNSW Sydney, and the federal government.

Silex is committing about $6 million to the project and has also received a $5.1 million grant through the federally funded Defence Trailblazer project.

The project is targeting “the first saleable quantities of ZS-Si” include the conversion of the ‘separation of isotopes by laser excitation (SILEX) process to produce two different products, quantum silane gas and solid ZS-Si.

Silane gas is used for quantum chip fabrication through chemical vapour deposition-based processes, whereas solid ZS-Si is required for the fabrication technology used by SQC and UNSW Sydney. The latter is known as molecular beam epitaxy.

SQC chief executive Professor Michelle Simmons said she is pleased to extend the commercial relationship Silex “based on the success shown, and capabilities being developed with the Silex technology to produce this critical enabling material for silicon-based quantum computing”.

“The establishment of a secure supply chain for enriched silicon will be of enormous benefit to SQC’s technology development program, and to the broader Australian quantum technology ecosystem,” she said.

“Our aim is to maintain global leadership in the commercialisation of silicon quantum computing, which promises to deliver profound and positive impacts across multiple sectors of the economy and to society.”

A key objective of the federal government’s Quantum strategy is the development of the world’s first error-corrected quantum computer.

Earlier this month, Silex announced it would bid to sell the United States Department of Energy High Assay Low Enriched Uranium, used to fuel advanced nuclear energy reactors such as small modular reactors.

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