Decoherence and Dynamical Decoupling in Solid-State Spin Qubits

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This dissertation is a study of the decoherence of a solid-state spin qubit, either that of a localized electron spin or a donor nucleus, caused by a nuclear spin bath relevant to semiconductor quantum computer architectures. In the presence of an external magnetic field and at low temperatures, the dominant decoherence mechanism is the spectral diffusion of the qubit spin resonance frequency due to the temporally fluctuating random magnetic field associated with the dipolar interaction induced flip-flops of nuclear spin pairs. The qubit spin dephasing due to this random magnetic field depends intricately on the quantum dynamics of the nuclear spin bath, making the coupled decoherence problem difficult to solve. We provide a formally exact solution of this non-Markovian quantum decoherence problem which numerically calculates accurate spin decoherence at short times, of particular relevance in solid-state spin quantum computer architectures. A quantum cluster expansion method is motivated, developed, and tested for the spectral diffusion problem. The method is applicable to any ideal pulse sequence applied to the qubit. Dynamical decoupling sequences, which aim to prolong qubit coherence, are analyzed. In particular, concatenated dynamical decoupling sequences are shown to prolong not only the coherence time over the entire sequence but also the length of time between pulses necessary to maintain coherence. This is shown to result from successive low-order cancellations in applicable perturbative expansions with each level of concatenation. Each cancellation, however, will require the inclusion, in the cluster expansion, of increasingly large clusters to obtain the lowest-order results. These larger clusters in the lowest order often dominate decoherence and therefore invalidate, as being overly optimistic, the pair approximation as a means to study the effect of concatenated dynamical decoupling. We present numerical results from our cluster expansion technique for echoes of single (Hahn), concatenated, and periodic pulse sequences using realistic models of a localized electron in phosphorus doped Si and in a GaAs quantum dot and of a P donor nucleus in Si or GaAs. In the Si:P electron spin decoherence problem, we consider, along with spectral diffusion, the effects of anisotropic hyperfine (AHF) interactions and suggest a technique to suppress electron spin echo envelope modulations (ESEEM), an additional source of decoherence resulting from the AHF interactions. Our calculations for the Si:P Hahn echoes, including the effects of both anisotropic hyperfine interactions and spectral diffusion, are in excellent agreement with experimental results. Our calculations of concatenated pulse sequence echoes offer important predictions for the effectiveness of a promising strategy to preserve qubit coherence in semiconductor quantum computer architectures.