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Cooling for quantum electronics

Start-up kiutra, a spin-off from the Technical University of Munich, has succeeded in what is believed to be a world first in developing a permanent magnetic cooling system to reach temperatures close to absolute zero.

Such temperatures are, for example, required for the operation of quantum computers. The system was set up by a team of researchers from the Physics Department at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Low temperatures are essential for basic research in the field of quantum physics and more technologies based on quantum mechanics are now making the move from the laboratory to commercial applications.

High-sensitivity detectors and quantum computers are two well-known examples. However, very low temperatures close to absolute zero (around -273°C) are generally required for the operation of sensitive quantum technology. Demand for effective cooling solutions is therefore growing.

TUM researchers Alexander Regnat, Jan Spallek, Tomek Schulz and Prof. Christian Pfleiderer are seeking to meet that demand and they are currently working on their prototype at the TUM Physics Department. According to Regnat, there is already the prospect of taking on more staff and setting up a separate headquarters.

The team have developed a technology to ensure permanent cooling and founded kiutra GmbH in the summer of 2018.

Liquefied gases are usually used to generate very low temperatures. Where constant temperatures close to absolute zero are needed, the extremely rare and expensive isotope helium-3 has to date been used. There are magnetic cooling processes, which can generate the requisite temperatures using inexpensive solids – but usually only for a limited period of time.

Concepts for permanent magnetic cooling have been around for a number of years. "However, technical implementation is extremely challenging and this has previously prevented the development of a product for widespread use," explained Schulz.

"We are the world's first commercial supplier of a cooling system that can magnetically achieve temperatures close to absolute zero ( near -273°C) on a permanent basis," said Regnat. "Our great advantage is that we do not need expensive helium-3. All we need is electricity."

TUM creates more than 70 spin-offs every year and this project is a spin-off of the Physics Department and the team is currently in receipt of an EXIST start-up grant. The program helps students, graduates and scientists to launch their new businesses. kiutra also received validation support from the Free State of Bavaria in 2016 and 2017.

A few days ago, a consortium consisting of the lead investor High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), Deep-Tech VC APEX Ventures and UnternehmerTUM Initiative for Industrial Innovators, invested in the spin-off and this new capital will be used to further expand global sales and production capacity for the rapidly growing quantum technology market.

Author
Neil Tyler

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