The vast field of Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST) consists of quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum sensing, and quantum simulation. These revolutionary technologies will soon begin to change the world around us at a rapid pace. Many of them, such as secure quantum communication, quantum internet, and advanced quantum sensors will be intertwined in our day-to-day lives.
QIST is still an emerging field, and there are very few companies and research institutes that are capable of developing and applying these technologies. Much of the challenge can be attributed to the need for a highly-skilled multidisciplinary workforce. The workforce in the QIST field must possess strong analytical thinking coupled with highly specialized skills in engineering and science.
The industry’s urgent need for more workforce in quantum jobs is discussed in Hughe’s et. al. in “Assessing the Needs of the Quantum Industry”. Filling such roles can be difficult due to the time and effort required to train quantum engineers. The good news is that it is possible to speed up the training process and get the workforce ready to work in the QIST field in a much shorter amount of time than previously imagined. This is possible by focusing on teaching essential real-world technical skills that are necessary for research and development in the quantum industry.
Quaxys is the first specialized academy for training quantum hardware engineers, where exceptional skill-based quantum hardware courses are offered. These courses focus on teaching the QIST workforce essential practical skills which prepare professionals to join the industry and conduct research as quickly as possible.
In this article, we will be focusing primarily on the skills necessary for quantum engineers working on semiconductor quantum platforms such as superconducting, spin, and topological qubits.
What Skills Does a Quantum Hardware Engineer Need?
Quantum computing platforms can be split into two categories. The first category includes natural quantum systems such as atom and ion qubits. The second category includes artificial atoms such as superconducting, spin, and topological qubits. Working with either of these categories requires special skills. Many of these skills are unique to each platform while others are shared between both platforms.
In the following section, we will discuss the main four skillsets that a quantum engineer working on semiconductor qubits needs to master. These are:
- Cryogenic engineering
- Microwave engineering
- Data acquisition
Semiconductor qubit experiments are typically performed close to absolute zero at extremely low temperatures of 10mK-50mK. Such temperatures help suppress the noise that would otherwise cause the qubit’s fragile quantum states to collapse. It is vital to understand the different parts of a dilution refrigerator and its workings before conducting such experiments.
A dilution fridge is used to protect the qubit from coupling to the environment. Therefore, the main task of a quantum engineer is to understand the paths (conducted and radiated paths) through which the noise gets coupled to the qubit and to block those paths using appropriate techniques.
An example here is to use a combination of filters, circulators, attenuators, shielding, and various cable types such as lossy microwave cables to minimize the noise level coupled to the qubit.
Quantum hardware engineers who utilize cryogenic techniques in semiconductor qubit experiments must also be familiar with DC wiring and amplification techniques inside the fridge. DC signals are mostly used for tuning purposes, whereas amplifiers are used to bring the extremely weak signal levels coming out of the qubit to a detectable level.
See here for an overview of a Quaxys course that covers the principles of operating a dilution fridge and cryogenic setup inside the fridge. Courses such as this one can help aspiring quantum hardware engineers learn the proper ways to conduct semiconductor qubit experiments.
Measuring and controlling semiconductor qubits occurs at microwave frequencies. This means engineers working with semiconductor qubits must possess a solid understanding of cryogenic and room-temperature microwave components and systems. This includes but is not limited to amplifiers, mixers, filters, power combiners, attenuators, and up and downconverters. The vital knowledge in this area can be divided into three main areas
- Noise engineering as mentioned in the previous section.
- Working with measurement instruments such as network analyzers and spectrum analyzers. These instruments are used to perform component level, system level, and qubit measurements. At Quaxys, we offer courses that cover the fundamentals of the network analyzer and spectrum analyzer operation and practical tips and tricks to make accurate measurements.
- Microwave signal processing techniques such as amplification, down-conversion, up conversion, filtering, etc. These techniques are essential to control and measure the qubits by sending appropriate modulated signals to the fridge and downconverting the signals coming out of the fridge for digital post-processing. The modulated signals are generated by using microwave signal generators and arbitrary waveform generators.
Quaxys has a series of RF and microwave engineering courses that cover all the essential skills for the microwave engineering part of the qubit system.
Nanofabrication is typically used to create nanocircuits for semiconductor qubits. This is accomplished using an electron beam lithography machine. Becoming familiar with different fabrication techniques, as well as metal deposition techniques such as sputtering and thermal evaporation are essential for the fabrication of high-quality qubits.
At Quaxys Academy, we will offer an in-depth course on the practical aspects of nanofabrication to get engineers acquainted with these machines and processes.
The last step in the chain of qubits experiments involves communicating with different machines, synchronizing them, and acquiring the measured data. This data is then sent to computers for post-processing.
Quantum engineers must be familiar with using various communication protocols such as serial communication, GPIB, LAN, and USB. Software such as Matlab, Python, LabView, and Labber are frequently used in the data acquisition stage. Quantum hardware engineers must be able to confidently work with at least one of the aforementioned software to ensure data acquisition is completed properly. Coding skills are also necessary when working with these software, especially if someone wants to develop codes for recording customized measurements.
Quantum hardware engineers must possess skills in nanofabrication, cryogenic techniques, microwave engineering, and data acquisition to successfully develop qubit systems. The next generation of quantum engineers are a vital asset for accelerating the development of such revolutionary technologies, with effective skill-based training at the core of their success By focusing on real-world applications, Quaxys courses are intentionally designed to close the talent gap. Reach out to us for more information on custom packages and course offerings.
 C. Hughes, D. Finke, D. -A. German, C. Merzbacher, P. M. Vora and H. J. Lewandowski, “Assessing the Needs of the Quantum Industry,” in IEEE Transactions on Education, doi: 10.1109/TE.2022.3153841.