In the past 20 years, impressive progress has been made both experimentally and theoretically in superconducting quantum circuits, which provide a platform for manipulating microwavephotons. This emerging field of superconducting quantum microwave circuits has been driven by many new interesting phenomena in microwave photonics and quantum information processing. For instance, the interaction between superconducting quantum circuits and single microwave photons can reach the regimes of strong, ultra-strong, and even deep-strong coupling. Many higher-order effects, unusual and less familiar in traditional cavity quantum electrodynamics with natural atoms, have been experimentally observed, e.g., giant Kerr effects, multi-photon processes, and single-atom induced bistability of microwave photons. These developments may lead to improved understanding of the counterintuitive properties of quantum mechanics, and speed up applications ranging from microwave photonics to superconducting quantum information processing. In this article, we review experimental and theoretical progress in microwave photonics with superconducting quantum circuits. We hope that this global review can provide a useful roadmap for this rapidly developing field.

Spontaneous parametric down-conversion is a well-known process in quantum nonlinear optics in which a photon incident on a nonlinear crystal spontaneously splits into two photons. Herewe propose an analogous physical process where one excited atom directly transfers its excitation to a pair of spatially-separated atoms with probability approaching one. The interaction is mediated by the exchange of virtual rather than real photons. This nonlinear atomic process is coherent and reversible, so the pair of excited atoms can transfer the excitation back to the first one: the atomic analogue of sum-frequency generation of light. The parameters used to investigate this process correspond to experimentally-demonstrated values in ultrastrong circuit quantum electrodynamics. This approach can be extended to realize other nonlinear inter-atomic processes, such as four-atom mixing, and is an attractive architecture for the realization of quantum devices on a chip. We show that four-qubit mixing can efficiently implement quantum repetition codes and, thus, can be used for error-correction codes.

We describe a hybrid quantum system composed of a micrometer-size carbon nanotube (CNT) longitudinally coupled to a flux qubit. We demonstrate the usefulness of this device for generatinghigh-fidelity nonclassical states of the CNT via dissipative quantum engineering. Sideband cooling of the CNT to its ground state and generating a squeezed ground state, as a mechanical analogue of the optical squeezed vacuum, are two additional examples of the dissipative quantum engineering studied here. Moreover, we show how to generate a long-lived macroscopically-distinct superposition (i.e., a Schr\“odinger cat-like) state. This cat state can be trapped via dark-state methods assuming that the CNT dissipation is negligible compared to the qubit dissipation, and can be verified by detecting the optical response of control fields.

Single-photon devices at microwave frequencies are important for applications in quantum information processing and communication in the microwave regime. In this work, we describea proposal of a multi-output single-photon device. We consider two superconducting resonators coupled to a gap-tunable qubit via both its longitudinal and transverse degrees of freedom. Thus, this qubit-resonator coupling differs from the coupling in standard circuit quantum-electrodynamic systems described by the Jaynes-Cummings model. We demonstrate that an effective quadratic coupling between one of the normal modes and the qubit can be induced, and this induced second-order nonlinearity is much larger than that for conventional Kerr-type systems exhibiting photon blockade. Assuming that a coupled normal mode is resonantly driven, we observe that the output fields from the resonators exhibit strong sub-Poissonian photon-number statistics and photon antibunching. Contrary to previous studies on resonant photon blockade, the first-excited state of our device is a pure single-photon Fock state rather than a polariton state, i.e., a highly hybridized qubit-photon state. In addition, it is found that the optical state truncation caused by the strong qubit-induced nonlinearity can lead to an entanglement between the two resonators, even in their steady state under the Markov approximation.

Phonon blockade is a purely quantum phenomenon, analogous to Coulomb and photon blockades, in which a single phonon in an anharmonic mechanical resonator can impede the excitation ofa second phonon. We propose an experimental method to realize phonon blockade in a driven harmonic nanomechanical resonator coupled to a qubit, where the coupling is proportional to the second-order nonlinear susceptibility χ(2). This is in contrast to the standard realizations of phonon and photon blockade effects in Kerr-type χ(3) nonlinear systems. The nonlinear coupling strength can be adjusted conveniently by changing the coherent drive field.As an example, we apply this model to predict and describe phonon blockade in a nanomechanical resonator coupled to a Cooper-pair box (i.e., a charge qubit) with a linear longitudinal coupling. By obtaining the solutions of the steady state for this composite system, we give the conditions forobserving strong antibunching and sub-Poissonian phonon-number statistics in this induced second-order nonlinear system. Besides using the qubit to produce phonon blockade states, the qubit itself can also be employed to detect blockade effects by measuring its states. Numerical simulations indicate that the robustness of the phonon blockade, and the sensitivity of detecting it, will benefit from this strong induced nonlinear coupling.

A strong photon-photon nonlinear interaction is a necessary condition for
photon blockade. Moreover, this nonlinearity can also result a bistable
behavior in the cavity field. We analyzethe relation between detecting field
and photon blockade in a superconducting circuit QED system, and show that the
photon blockade cannot occur when the detecting field is in the bistable
regime. We further demonstrate that the photon transmission through such system
can be controlled (from photon blockade to transparency) by the detecting
field. Numerical simulations show that our proposal is experimentally
realizable with current technology.