Tech company Silex Systems (ASX:SLX) is moving forward with plans to commercialise its Zero-Spin silicon (SZ-Si) technology, which will be used in the processor chips that power silicon-based quantum computers.

Silex has signed a deal with Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC) — a company formed through investment from Telstra, the Commonwealth Bank, state and federal governments and the University of NSW.

The two parties will launch the project under an offtake agreement, which will see SQC make three annual payments of $300k to Silex as an offset for future purchases of SZ-Si.

SQC will also acquire $900k of fully paid ordinary shares in Silex via a placement offer, bringing the total commercial terms of the transaction to $1.8m.


Quantum leap

Silex is an R&D company whose primary asset is a laser uranium enrichment technology.

But using a variant of its isotope separation platform, the company can also produce SZ-Si — a “unique form of isotopically enriched silicon required for the fabrication of next-gen processor chips which will power silicon-based quantum computers”.

The company said existing centrifuge production of silicon was too costly and unreliable. Instead, the higher purity of SZ-Si had the potential to provide a platform for power and scalability of quantum computing systems.

Looking at the sector more broadly, significant capital is being devoted to R&D around quantum computers, which are thousands of times more powerful than conventional computers with the capacity to upgrade operating systems across medicine, finance and artificial intelligence.

The project aims to prove that SZ-Si can be manufactured with a sufficient level of purity, and that Silex can effectively scale up production when required. Silex will retain ownership of the intellectual property developed in the R&D phase.

“Importantly, SQC has committed to purchase ZS-Si product from Silex, should the project be successful,” the company said.

SQC director Michelle Simmons said the company was looking forward to working with Silex.

“Australia is at the very forefront of silicon-based quantum computing internationally, and to maintain that lead we need a secure supply of isotopically purified silicon, which will be an essential ingredient for manufacturing commercial silicon-based quantum computers,” she said.

Shares in Silex were up more than 14 per cent in morning trade to 39c.