Observation and stabilization of photonic Fock states in a hot radio-frequency resonator

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Science  08 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6431, pp. 1072-1075
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw3101

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Going quantum with radio waves

It becomes increasingly difficult to detect long-wavelength single photons because of thermal fluctuations in the background. This can pose problems for single-photon detection for fields such as astronomy and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. Gely et al. used a superconducting qubit, initially developed for circuit quantum electrodynamics (cQED) and quantum information processing for microwaves, to directly observe the quantization of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields stored in a photonic microresonator. They were then able to manipulate the quantum state of the radio-frequency field, forming one- and two-photon Fock states within the microresonator, and analyze how the system interacts dynamically with its environment. The cQED approach could be used for fundamental studies in quantum thermodynamics and also find practical application in imaging.

Science, this issue p. 1072


Detecting weak radio-frequency electromagnetic fields plays a crucial role in a wide range of fields, from radio astronomy to nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. In quantum optics, the ultimate limit of a weak field is a single photon. Detecting and manipulating single photons at megahertz frequencies presents a challenge because, even at cryogenic temperatures, thermal fluctuations are appreciable. Using a gigahertz superconducting qubit, we observed the quantization of a megahertz radio-frequency resonator, cooled it to the ground state, and stabilized Fock states. Releasing the resonator from our control, we observed its rethermalization with nanosecond resolution. Extending circuit quantum electrodynamics to the megahertz regime, we have enabled the exploration of thermodynamics at the quantum scale and allowed interfacing quantum circuits with megahertz systems such as spin systems or macroscopic mechanical oscillators.

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