HomeCoverTECH NEWSConstructing Higher Qubits - IEEE Spectrum

Constructing Higher Qubits – IEEE Spectrum

Whereas rising up in Germany, Heike Riel helped her father design and construct furnishings within the household workshop. She says the expertise taught her that “precision and creativity are needed to construct one thing glorious.”

“Working as a furnishings maker was really a really good expertise since you constructed one thing that is top of the range and lasts,” Riel says. “After I return to my hometown, a lot of our shoppers nonetheless have the furnishings that I helped construct for them.”

Woodworking additionally instilled in her a ardour for arithmetic and physics, she says, including that she knew she sometime would pursue a profession in a type of fields.

Right this moment the IEEE senior member is head of science and know-how at IBM Analysis in Zurich. She can be the lead for IBM Analysis Quantum Europe and Africa, a gaggle that goals to create applied sciences in synthetic intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and associated fields.

The IBM Fellow has helped develop a number of groundbreaking applied sciences together with OLED shows. She has carried out analysis in semiconducting nanowires and different nanostructures, in addition to molecular electronics. She has authored greater than 150 publications and holds greater than 60 patents.

Riel is the recipient of this yr’s IEEE Andrew S. Grove Award “for contributions to supplies for nanoscale electronics and natural light-emitting gadgets.” The award is sponsored by the IEEE Electron Units Society.

“I could not imagine that I used to be chosen [to receive] this very prestigious award,” Riel says. “I really feel very humbled and honored as a result of I’ve nice respect for Andrew S. Grove, who was a real technical and enterprise chief within the semiconductor trade, and many individuals I love have acquired this award.”


After finishing a woodworking apprenticeship in 1989, Riel determined to pursue a grasp’s diploma in physics. She graduated in 1997 from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, in Germany. She joined IBM Analysis in Zurich in 1998 whereas pursuing her doctorate in physics in collaboration with the College of Bayreuth, additionally in Germany.

Her analysis centered on the optimization of multilayer natural light-emitting gadgets for use in shows. After incomes her Ph.D. in 2003 she labored on the lab as a analysis workers member. Riel’s analysis helped clarify the physics behind cost transport and recombination, which govern the operation of all digital gadgets, in addition to gentle outcoupling in natural semiconductors.

“Again then, individuals didn’t imagine it may very well be performed, however that didn’t cease us.”

Her findings helped enhance the effectivity, coloration, and endurance of OLEDs, which made it doable for her and the workforce to develop the primary 51-centimeter full-color active-matrix OLED show. The know-how is made by inserting skinny movies of light-emitting natural compounds between two conductors. When voltage is utilized, a vibrant gentle is emitted from every particular person pixel. OLEDs will be present in TV screens, tablets, and smartphones.

“We had one yr to scale natural LEDs to make a 20-inch show in three totally different colours with pixel sizes of 100 micrometers by 300 micrometers,” Riel stated in a 2021 interview for IBM’s Analysis weblog. “Again then [in the early 2000s], individuals didn’t imagine it may very well be performed, however that didn’t cease us.”

She says it’s rewarding to have developed one thing shoppers use day by day.

“When my husband purchased our first OLED tv, it was actually thrilling,” she remembers. “Out of the blue I owned a product that’s utilizing applied sciences I developed.”


Riel went on to turn out to be head of IBM’s nanoscale electronics group, which develops semiconducting nanowires and nanostructures for transistors. She and her workforce helped develop the primary vertical surround-gate nanowire field-effect transistor in 2006.

Researchers world wide had been attempting to scale back the scale of transistors for many years. However every time the transistors have been miniaturized, their efficiency decreased; finally they couldn’t successfully management electrical present.

“It grew to become clear,” Riel says, “that how we constructed transistors needed to change within the early 2000s.”

“We needed to give you new concepts for easy methods to enhance the standard of [transistors] after we make them smaller,” she says. “We explored and developed new supplies and integration schemes for nanoscale electronics and new transistor architectures based mostly on semiconducting nanowires.”

Riel and her workforce applied gate-all-around and cylindrical nanowires for transistors. As a result of the nanowires are cylindrical, the transistor gate will be wrapped across the nanowires—which permits higher management of the present, based on a analysis paper authored by Riel and her colleagues.

In 2017 IBM launched a brand new transistor—the Nanosheet—that makes use of the ideas Riel says she and her workforce developed between 2005 and 2012. Every transistor is made up of three stacked horizontal silicon sheets, every a number of nanometers thick and utterly surrounded by a gate. Final yr IBM unveiled the world’s first 2-nm node chip, which was based mostly on Nanosheet know-how.

“IBM claims this new chip will enhance efficiency by 45 % utilizing the identical quantity of energy, or use 75 % much less vitality whereas sustaining the identical efficiency degree, as immediately’s 7 nm-based chips,” an IEEE Spectrum article stated.


Riel is at present conducting quantum-computing analysis. She and her workforce are creating qubits and associated applied sciences.

Classical computer systems change transistors on and off to signify information as ones or zeros. Due to the character of quantum physics, qubits will be in a state of superposition, whereby they’re each 1 and 0 concurrently, as defined in a 2020 IEEE Spectrum article. Quantum computer systems can carry out some duties far quicker and extra precisely than typical machines.

“We are attempting to determine whether or not a brand new materials would make them perform higher and if [certain materials] might have benefits over immediately’s processors,” Riel says. Her workforce has been experimenting with silicon spin qubits and topological phenomena.

She and her workforce are taking a holistic strategy, she says, and are constructing a quantum system from the bottom up—creating the qubit, quantum processor unit know-how, management electronics, and software program. In November the IBM workforce demonstrated the Eagle, a 127-qubit chip: the world’s first quantum processor to interrupt the 100-qubit barrier.

Her workforce is also working to search out a great way to attach two quantum processors. In quantum computing, she says, transduction is critical to move data over a protracted distance from one processor to a different. Quantum transduction is the method of changing quantum indicators from a low-energy photon to a high-energy photon to guard its state throughout transmission.

“To do that conversion, you want refined know-how,” Riel says. “We’re exploring totally different approaches and determining which is the most effective and the way we will obtain the specs that you just want for doing it.”


Riel says she joined IEEE in 2007 so she might contribute to the group, take part in conferences, and join with different engineers.

A member of the IEEE Electron Units Society, she has helped to prepare occasions together with the IEEE European Stable-State Gadget Analysis Convention, the IEEE Worldwide Electron Units Assembly, and the IEEE Symposium on VLSI Know-how and Circuits.

Riel says IEEE has enriched her profession, permitting her to maintain up with know-how advances and to community with friends.

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