Terra Quantum nets $75m for cryptography, security work

Ferroelectric devices key for this qubit-slinging startup

A Swiss quantum computing company claiming a world-first discovery has just marked what it believes is one of the largest funding rounds in the history of the quantum tech space.

Terra Quantum announced on Thursday it extended its Series A funding to $75 million, which it said will go toward strengthening its offerings in cryptography and cybersecurity.

Alongside its funding announcement, Terra also mentioned a recent breakthrough it says it had in its ferroelectricity research, which it claimed will be key to further miniaturization of electronics. 

Ferroelectricity is a characteristic of some materials, such as aluminum nitride, whose electric polarization can be reversed by applying a strong enough electric field. Terra wasn't terribly forthcoming on the particulars of its breakthrough in its announcement, though said its technology can be used to build ferroelectric nanodot transistors, and has been peer reviewed.

"In the 9th issue of Nature Partner Journal: Computational materials, Terra Quantum researchers describe practical design of the ferroelectric nanodots-based negative capacitance field-effect transistor," it wrote.

We couldn't find a 9th issue of that journal online, though in the 8th issue, there's an article dated March 28, 2022, authored by a couple of Terra Quantum staff and three academics, titled: the ferroelectric field-effect transistor with negative capacitance.

The abstract goes:

Integrating ferroelectric negative capacitance (NC) into the field-effect transistor (FET) promises to break fundamental limits of power dissipation known as Boltzmann tyranny. However, realizing the stable static negative capacitance in the non-transient non-hysteretic regime remains a daunting task.

Here we put forth an ingenious design for the ferroelectric domain-based field-effect transistor with the stable reversible static negative capacitance.

Using dielectric coating of the ferroelectric capacitor enables the tunability of the negative capacitance improving tremendously the performance of the field-effect transistors.

If this component works, it could be a high-performance nanodot-scale transistor – transistors being a building block of modern electronics – paving the way for ever-more tiny circuits and systems.

Brain-speed ferroelectric computers?

With its discovery, Terra claimed it unlocked a key foundation for future technology, specifically terahertz-frequency-based electronics, non-invasive medical diagnostic tools, intra/inter-chip wireless interconnects for more compact equipment, 6G hardware, and more. Most of that is enabled by terahertz signals switched by tiny transistor gates.

Where Terra starts to go out on a supercomputing limb is its claims that it can build ferroelectric logical units that are apparently capable of multi-bit quantum logic, and that these will help it implement neuromorphic spiking neural networks that think like human brains. Terra believes it can use the "multi-bit logic of ferroelectric units as a model for qubits."

Quantum computing is still in its infancy, with the most basic of building blocks (like a sustained qubit) still the subject of experiments and research papers instead of new hardware. Some of the most basic promises of quantum computing, like being able to break traditional encryption with ease, are also still solidly in the "maybe" category. 

Despite that, investment in quantum computing has continued to rise, with some predictions seeing the industry grow 50 percent each year from now until 2027. The US government has invested considerably in quantum computing, especially securing them, and venture capital firms have been giving billions away to startups in the hope their investment in quantum computing will be the one that strikes gold. ®

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