News Feature | October 12, 2022

Bright Ideas — $100B Investment To Build Largest US Semiconductor Fab, This State Is The Next Quantum Computing Hub

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By Abby Proch, former editor


Quick to embrace the newly approved CHIPS Act, semiconductor manufacturer Micron Technology has announced a $100 billion investment into what it says will be “the largest semiconductor fabrication facility in the history of the United States.” The 20-plus-year commitment comes with $5.5 billion in incentives from New York state as well as an undetermined windfall of federal grants and tax credits from the CHIPS and Science Act. The suburban Syracuse, New York, facility will reportedly create about 50,000 jobs, about a fifth of which will be high-paying, and may include as much as 2.4 million square feet of clean room space.

Also on the heels of the CHIPS Act, SPIE hosted its first Photonics Industry Summit on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C. Though planned before the Act had been approved by the Biden administration, the gathering of government and industry decisionmakers discussed the boon the Act will become to the optics and photonics industries, as well as trends in “artificial intelligence, quantum technology, advanced manufacturing, sensors, clean energy [and] healthcare.” Some of the key talking points included National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director Laurie Locascio’s acknowledgement that domestic manufacturing must remain a priority in tandem with commitment between government and industry to be open and frank in their coordination.

Speaking of working together, North Carolina’s Research Triangle academicians — composed of students and researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Duke University — are all on the quest for realized quantum computing. Each is stepping to the forefront, with IBM locating its first IBM Quantum Hub at N.C. State in 2018 and IonQ picking Duke to house their quantum center in 2020. For its part, UNC is homing in on quantum fintech by expanding their business school curriculum to include more coursework on quantum computing for the finance industry. On the commercial side, the Triangle is seeing its fair share of startups and is even playing host to Google and Apple.

For the first time, near-infrared (NIR) imaging can now be used on an industrial scale to image carbon dioxide emissions from commercial jet engines. A group of UK engineers have developed what they call “chemical species tomography” to image the jets’ exhaust plumes in real-time. The development has allowed the group to pursue NIR imaging of other aviation combustion chemicals, including nitrogen oxides, water, carbon monoxide, and oxygen. Their hope is the imaging will help catalyze other new technologies to reduce the aviation industry’s environmental impact.

A new water-repellant interface may be the answer to less vulnerable and more efficient perovskite solar cells. Made less susceptible to water and thus degradation, these new solar cells are now able to generate 1,000+ continuous house of power generation efficiency of more than 20%. The reason for this more rugged performance? A hydrazine derivative containing fluorine atoms. The next step for researchers is to pursue other molecules that can be incorporated to improve performance.

A new multi-component beam shaper attached right onto an optical fiber has researchers convinced the tiny 3D-printed device can reduce the bulk of many optical devices. As always, the quest for lower SWaP-C continues, and researchers with the Soreq Nuclear Research Center in Israel are on a mission to streamline optical fibers with their pointed polymer devices that turns light beams into a twisted Bessel beam. Specifically, the 3D-printed structure also incorporates “a parabolic lens for light collimation and a helical axicon, or conical, lens to twist the light.” The result is a beam with low diffraction and the ability to support laser power up to 10 MW/cm2.

And finally, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about the record-setting semiconductor facility to be built on U.S. soil and not mention the world’s largest camera as it nears completion. Seven-plus years in the marking, the biggest camera in the world — with a 1.57-meter lens — will finally make it to the Vera C. Rubin Observatory this spring. The camera will likely be delivered by a chartered Boeing 747 cargo plane from San Francisco to Chile as early as May 2023. And come 2024, the camera is expected to take two back-to-back images for every 3.5 degrees of sky over the Southern Hemisphere.