Engineering dissipation

Dissipation can cause decoherence and errors in qubits, but can also be a resource for state preparation, coherence preservation, and even bath-engineered gates. Dissipation is also at the root of the quantum-classical transition and is intricately linked to the quantum measurement problem. In order to make full use of dissipation for quantum computing and for studying the foundations of quantum mechanics, we have developed an on-demand “dissipator” device. This device consists of a parametric coupler (essentially a tunable transmon qubit) with a fast flux line for modulating the coupler frequency. A strong coupling to a 50-ohm-terminated feedline provides the dissipative element. By coupling the dissipator to another off-resonant target mode and parametrically modulating the dissipator’s resonant frequency at the detuning frequency between the two, we introduce dissipation into that mode. This allows us to:

  • Tune the amount of dissipation fast in-situ, taking the target mode from high-coherence to very lossy in a few ns
  • Quickly switch between different target modes simply by changing the parametric drive frequency
  • Use a high-frequency dissipator as a quantum refrigerator, cooling the target mode below the dissipator temperature
  • Add extra drives to pump energy into the system, engineer higher-order loss processes, or “cool” to non-thermal states.

We have already demonstrated using this device to reset a qubit to its ground state and to reset a measurement cavity back to 0 photons. We are now exploring how to suppress decoherence and even stabilize non-trivial states with the dissipator.


Weak measurement feedback

When we first learn about measurement in quantum mechanics, it is usually presented as a discrete process: do a measurement, get a result, and the system projects to the eigenstate corresponding to that measurement value. However, measurement is a continuous process. By weakly probing a qubit in a measurement cavity, we can slow this process down sufficiently that we can track the qubit state as it evolves stochastically during the measurement process—a quantum trajectory. Using near-quantum-limited parametric amplifiers and fast room-temperature electronics, we can even feed back on these quantum trajectories and deterministically drive qubit dynamics with the measurement process. Using a combination of analytical theory, numerical simulation, and experimental measurement, we are working to extend these feedback protocols to more and more complex dynamics while improving the feedback efficiency. Much of this work is done in collaboration with the Dressel group at Chapman.


Quasiparticles in qubit circuits

Quasiparticles–single-particle excitations of the superfluid condensate–are a major source of decoherence in superconducting qubits. A quasiparticle tunneling across a Josephson junction can absorb energy from the qubit, causing relaxation; it can donate energy to the qubit, causing spurious excitation; and it can modify the qubit energy spectrum, causing dephasing. Quasiparticles can also cause loss during bulk transport, and can become trapped in sensitive circuit elements, causing further decoherence. While superconducting qubits are typically operated at temperatures low enough to completely eliminate all quasiparticles, experimental research has consistently shown significant non-thermal populations of quasiparticles.

These non-equilibrium quasiparticles may have many sources. Blackbody radiation from warmer stages of a cryostat can impact the circuit and excite quasiparticles. Likewise, cosmic radiation and nearby radioactive materials may generate quasiparticle populations that are significant. “Hot spots” in the circuit may be insufficiently thermalized and therefore generate thermal quasiparticles at a higher temperature. All of these mechanisms are likely significant and must be combatted in order to optimize qubit coherence.

In order to tackle the problem of quasiparticles, their behavior must be carefully studied. In LFL, we study quasiparticles through a few techniques. In one set of experiments, we trap quasiparticles in the internal Andreev states of weak-link Josephson junctions. These Andreev traps, when integrated into a resonant circuit, affect the resonant frequency of the circuit, enabling fast, single-shot detection of quasiparticle trapping. We use these traps to study the correlations between quasiparticles, their energy distribution, and their relaxation and recombination mechanisms. We also design qubits which are especially sensitive or insensitive to quasiparticle behavior, and measure qubit spectrum and lifetime in a variety of quasiparticle generation environments. These experiments allow us to better understand the mechanisms by which quasiparticles are created and destroyed, and to test strategies for mitigating quasiparticle-related decoherence.


Quantum error suppression

Full fault-tolerant quantum error correction architectures like the surface code are extremely resource-intensive: at current error rates, they require thousands of physical qubits and operations in order to encode a single fault-tolerant logical qubit. However, there are many techniques that can suppress errors—reduce error rates, or prevent certain types of errors from occurring—using very few resources. We are working on optimizing and combining many of these techniques, including dynamical decoupling, decoherence-free subspace encodings, bath engineering, and novel error-protected qubit designs. Much of this work is done in collaboration with the Lidar group at USC, the Albash group at UNM, and the Vijayaraghavan group at the Tata Institute.

In the LFL, we design, measure, and integrate new qubit systems that are intrinsically protected from decoherence.

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Levenson-Falk Lab

SSC 111
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0484