Zyvex Labs Unveils ‘World’s Highest-Resolution Lithography System’ to Aid in Quantum Computing Research

To create a device for the world of quantum computing, you have to think small. Richardson-based Zyvex Labs has been developing a device since 2007 that acts as a type of microscope that can manipulate atomic structures on a surface. That's led to the ZyvexLitho1 system, which enables more precise, automated patterning at a sub-nanometer resolution. It's also led to $28 million in funding from agencies like DARPA.

John Randall, the company's CEO, says the new system will be "really useful for research that's going to lead to better quantum computers"—eventually leading to one "that can do the ridiculous number of fabulous things that they say it's going to do.”

Building on years of work, Zyvex Labs is taking the next step in its growth with the release of new technology that it says is the “world’s highest-resolution lithography system.”

The Richardson-based startup, focused on using atomically precise manufacturing to usher in the next wave of quantum computing technology, unveiled the device late last month and says it could have implications ranging from cybersecurity to drug discovery and weather prediction.

“Announcing this particular product is a great step toward making it available to a much larger range of people,” John Randall, Zyvex Labs president and CEO, told Dallas Innovates. “This is a commercial, automated piece of equipment. And something with that kind of resolution is going to be a major development.”

Opening up opportunities in quantum computing

John Randall, president and CEO of Zyvex Labs [Photo: Zyvex Labs]

The new product is based on Zyvex Labs’ scanning tunnelling microscopy device, which it has been developing since 2007 and which acts as a type of microscope that can manipulate atomic structures on a surface.

The company’s ZyvexLitho1 system allows for a more precise, automated patterning at a sub-nanometer resolution. Embedded within the system is Zyvex Labs’ digital control system, which allows users to make atomically precise patterns on solid-state quantum and nano devices.

“It’s dramatic how much smaller we can make and how much more precise we can make, because we’ve got a digital address grid, which is a surface silicone lattice that we can image, center a tip around, and remove exactly the hydrogen atoms in the pattern that we want to remove,” Randall said.

The launch of the product allows Zyvex Labs to offer a full, turnkey lithography system to clients, Randall said. While Randall said the system won’t target manufacturing, he said it will be useful to researchers developing work on quantum computing technology—an area Randall said he’s seeing interest in from a number of sectors due to the capabilities and new understandings it could bring.

“Any quantum computing technology has to have way better precision than you can get with any current manufacturing tool,” Randall said. “(ZyvexLitho1) is going to be really useful for research that’s going to lead to better quantum computers, and eventually the sort of universal quantum computer that can do the ridiculous number of fabulous things that they say it’s going to do.”

Zyvex previously funded through DARPA grants

One of those sectors is defense, where Zyvex Labs has found around $28 million in funding support from organizations like the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the Army Research Office, and the Department of Energy. That’s led to the company working with the Sandia National Laboratories and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in addition to researchers at a number of universities. Randall added that new investment and research is being poured into quantum computing technology, especially with the recently passed CHIPS and Science Act.

“There’s a lot of nano technology, really exciting applications, that we just don’t have the manufacturing tools to make,” Randall said. “It’s an international arms race, if you will, to get to quantum computers.”

Calling ZyvexLitho1 a “breakthrough,” Randall said it will begin being delivered to customers in about six months. The product marks the “next step” in his company’s journey, he added, noting that Zyvex will likely be looking to take on outside investments to help it scale in the future.

‘The industry is finally catching up’

Zyvex Labs was formed in 2007, after the more than two-decade-old Zyvex Corporation reorganized into three independent companies. Today, Zyvex Labs is the only company still owned by founder Jim Von Ehr, who Randall said began Zyvex Corporation in 1997 to focus on nanotechnology, with the end goal of developing the level of atomic precision that Zyvex Labs is working on now, Randall added. Von Her is also the co-founder of Israeli prosthetic vision device company Nano-Retina, with Zyvex Labs listed as a “founding partner.”

When Zyvex Corporation reorganized, it also formed Zyvex Performance Materials and Zyvex Instruments. Zyvex Instruments, a semiconductor industry-focused nanoprobing company, was acquired by DCG Systems in 2010 and is now owned by Thermo Fisher Scientific, Randall said. Zyvex Performance Materials went on to be renamed Zyvex Technologies. Focusing on enhanced polymer composites, Zyvex Technologies was eventually sold to Taiwanese chemical distribution firm Evermore Trading Corporation.

“The industry is finally catching up with the sort of technology that we have, so I’m very bullish on our prospects for growing pretty significantly,” Randall said.

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