Quantum Mechanics of a Macroscopic Variable: The Phase Difference of a Josephson Junction

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Science  26 Feb 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4843, pp. 992-997
DOI: 10.1126/science.239.4843.992


Experiments to investigate the quantum behavior of a macroscopic degree of freedom, namely the phase difference across a Josephson tunnel junction, are described. The experiments involve measurements of the escape rate of the junction from its zero voltage state. Low temperature measurements of the escape rate for junctions that are either nearly undamped or moderately damped agree very closely with predictions for macroscopic quantum tunneling, with no adjustable parameters. Microwave spectroscopy reveals quantized energy levels in the potential well of the junction in excellent agreement with quantum-mechanical calculations. The system can be regarded as a "macroscopic nucleus with wires."