Effects of Optical Illumination on Superconducting Quantum Devices

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I report measurements of two different types of superconducting devices illuminated by 780 nm light, one of the wavelengths needed in a proposed atom-superconductor hybrid quantum system.

I illuminated a thin-film Al lumped-element resonator and observed the resonator quality factor and resonance frequency as a function of illumination intensity, microwave power, and temperature. The resonator was mounted in a 3d aluminum cavity. The variation in optically-induced loss due to microwave power was similar to the behavior expected for loss from a distribution of two-level systems. Although this behavior may suggest the presence of optically activated two-level systems, I found that the loss is better explained by the presence of nonequilibrium quasiparticles generated by the illumination and excited by the microwave drive. I described a model of the system where optical absorption creates an effective source of phonons and solved the coupled quasiparticle-phonon rate equations. I found good agreement between the simulation and the measured resonator quality factor and frequency shift as a function of temperature, microwave power, and optical illumination.

I fabricated a transmon qubit and studied the qubit transition frequency and relaxation time as a function of illumination intensity and temperature. The qubit was mounted in a 3d aluminum cavity and coupled to the cavity forming a Jaynes-Cummings system. Qubit relaxation showed non-exponential behavior that I fit to a quasiparticle fluctuation model with two characteristic times. The transition frequency and both characteristic times decreased with increasing illumination intensity. For comparison, I described a nonequilibrium quasiparticle model for the expected frequency shift and relaxation time due to quasiparticle tunneling through the Josephson junction. While the quasiparticle simulation predicted the general qualitative behavior of the frequency shift and relaxation time, there were some significant discrepancies with the data. This suggests the model needs to be extended, for example by including a different gap in the two superconductor layers forming the junction, and by taking into account other possible sources of loss and decoherence.