Coherent manipulation of Andreev states in superconducting atomic contacts

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Science  11 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6253, pp. 1199-1202
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2179

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Making and manipulating a weak-link qubit

In superconductors, single particles cannot have energies smaller than the superconducting gap. Yet when two superconductors are separated by a thin nonsuperconducting bridge (the “weak link”), quasi-particles can occupy states that are inside the gap, the so-called Andreev bound states (ABSs). Janvier et al. fabricated such a structure out of superconducting aluminum and manipulated the occupation of a pair of ABSs. They observed oscillations in population between two of the energy levels, forming a type of qubit, which they dubbed the Andreev qubit. The results may lead to applications in quantum information processing.

Science, this issue p. 1199


Coherent control of quantum states has been demonstrated in a variety of superconducting devices. In all of these devices, the variables that are manipulated are collective electromagnetic degrees of freedom: charge, superconducting phase, or flux. Here we demonstrate the coherent manipulation of a quantum system based on Andreev bound states, which are microscopic quasi-particle states inherent to superconducting weak links. Using a circuit quantum electrodynamics setup, we performed single-shot readout of this Andreev qubit. We determined its excited-state lifetime and coherence time to be in the microsecond range. Quantum jumps and parity switchings were observed in continuous measurements. In addition to having possible quantum information applications, such Andreev qubits are a test-bed for the physics of single elementary excitations in superconductors.

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