Cryogenic electronics for the read-out of quantum processors

Harald Homulle

    Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

    1725 Downloads (Pure)


    Quantum computing promises an exponential speed-up of computation compared to what is nowadays achievable with classical computers. In this way, it enables the evaluation of more complex models and the breaching of current security algorithms. For the operation of a quantum system, many questions remain to be answered. Currently, there are several quantum technologies that promise to be both reliable and scalable, two features required for large scale quantum operations. Common to all technologies is the operating temperature that needs to be close to absolute zero, i.e. below 100 mK, to suppress environment noise and allow the quantum properties to become 'visible'.

    In order for any quantum processor to be operated, a so-called quantum-classical interface is required for the quantum bit (qubit) read-out and control. This interface consists of various electronic blocks, such as analog-to-digital converters, digital-to-analog converters, mixers, amplifiers and a digital controller. Especially the analog blocks require effort to meet the noise and stability constraints as not to disturb the very sensitive qubits and allow reading of the tiny signals. As the qubits live in extremely deep-cryogenic temperatures, long wires interface the cryogenic with the room temperature environment, where most of the electronics is situated. However, for a scalable system, heat injection becomes a serious problem, with many wires between 300 K and sub-Kelvin. Furthermore, such amount of interconnects is challenging to mechanically place in a dilution refrigerator.

    Therefore, in this work, we propose to implement the electronics not at room temperature, but at a temperature much closer to the qubits, for example at 4 K. This not only reduces significantly the wiring between room temperature and the qubits, but we can also benefit from lower electronic noise at such a temperature. The operation of conventional electronics almost 200°C below its normal temperature range is not trivial as device properties alter significantly and most circuits no longer operate as intended.

    In CMOS processes, the main technology in the integrated electronics world, the behaviour of the transistors, required for the implementation of any circuit, deviates considerably at low temperatures. The transistor's threshold voltage goes up, the mobility increases and the subthreshold slope becomes steeper, to name just a few of these deviations. Although there are improvements in performance, there are also some counter effects, and characterization of the transistors is needed to observe the changes. Once devices are characterized at such low temperatures, new models can be built and circuits can be simulated and adapted to operate properly at cryogenic temperatures. Luckily, there are various commercially available devices that can already withstand the chills of cold. We demonstrated various commercially available devices, such as a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) implemented in a 28 nm CMOS process, to be operating without major concerns at 4~K. Its properties alter only slightly, within 5 to 10%, and all tested circuit implementations, working at 300~K, also worked at 4 K.

    We combined both commercially available devices, that operate 200 K below their specified temperature range, with custom designed CMOS circuits to implement a cryogenic read-out platform for spin qubits. This system comprises amplifiers, an ADC, an FPGA, voltage regulators and a clock generator. It allows to amplify the tiny signal from the qubits and digitize it directly in the FPGA in order to process the data locally at 4~K. This system is one of the first systematic attempts at operating a part of the quantum-classical interface at cryogenic temperatures and forms the basis for future systems comprising the complete electronic interface for qubits to operate at such low temperatures.

    One of the main problems to tackle for cryogenic electronic systems is their power consumption. Power budgets are simply limited to roughly 1 or 2 Watts at 4 K and exponentially lower at deeper cryogenic temperatures, thus limiting the size of large-scale electronic systems. Our approach of combined commercial and custom circuits will have to be steadily replaced by a single (custom) technology that meets both power and scalability constraints. One of the best candidates is CMOS, a technology that the industry has relied upon for several decades and benefits from many optimizations thanks to Moore's law.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Delft University of Technology
    • Charbon-Iwasaki-Charbon, E., Supervisor
    Award date1 May 2019
    Electronic ISBNs978-94-6384-029-3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


    • cryogenic electronics
    • FPGA
    • CMOS
    • transistor
    • qubit
    • quantum processor


    Dive into the research topics of 'Cryogenic electronics for the read-out of quantum processors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this