Quasiparticles are an intrinsic source of relaxation and decoherence for superconducting qubits. Recent works have shown that normal-metal traps may be used to evacuate quasiparticles,and potentially improve the qubit life time. Here, we investigate how far the normal metals themselves may introduce qubit relaxation. We identify the ohmic losses inside the normal metal and the tunnelling current through the normal metal-superconductor interface as the relevant relaxation mechanisms. We show that the ohmic loss contribution depends strongly on the device and trap geometry, as a result of the inhomogeneous electric fields in the qubit. The correction of the quality factor due to the tunnelling current on the other hand is highly sensitive to the nonequilibrium distribution function of the quasiparticles. Overall, we show that even when choosing less than optimal parameters, the presence of normal-metal traps does not affect the quality factor of state-of-the-art qubits.

Superconducting high kinetic inductance elements constitute a valuable resource for quantum circuit design and millimeter-wave detection. Granular aluminum (GrAl) in the superconductingregime is a particularly interesting material since it has already shown a kinetic inductance in the range of nH/◻ and its deposition is compatible with conventional Al/AlOx/Al Josephson junction fabrication. We characterize microwave resonators fabricated from GrAl with a room temperature resistivity of 4×103μΩ⋅cm, which is a factor of 3 below the superconductor to insulator transition, showing a kinetic inductance fraction close to unity. The measured internal quality factors are on the order of Qi=105 in the single photon regime, and we demonstrate that non-equilibrium quasiparticles (QP) constitute the dominant loss mechanism. We extract QP relaxation times in the range of 1 s and we observe QP bursts every ∼20 s. The current level of coherence of GrAl resonators makes them attractive for integration in quantum devices, while it also evidences the need to reduce the density of non-equilibrium QPs.

Dynamical error suppression techniques are commonly used to improve coherence in quantum systems. They reduce dephasing errors by applying control pulses designed to reverse erroneouscoherent evolution driven by environmental noise. However, such methods cannot correct for irreversible processes such as energy relaxation. In this work, we investigate a complementary, stochastic approach to reducing errors: instead of deterministically reversing the unwanted qubit evolution, we use control pulses to shape the noise environment dynamically. In the context of superconducting qubits, we implement a pumping sequence to reduce the number of unpaired electrons (quasiparticles) in close proximity to the device. We report a 70% reduction in the quasiparticle density, resulting in a threefold enhancement in qubit relaxation times, and a comparable reduction in coherence variability.

Superconducting circuits have attracted growing interest in recent years as a promising candidate for fault-tolerant quantum information processing. Extensive efforts have always beentaken to completely shield these circuits from external magnetic field to protect the integrity of superconductivity. Surprisingly, here we show vortices can dramatically improve the performance of superconducting qubits by reducing the lifetimes of detrimental single-electron-like excitations known as quasiparticles. Using a contactless injection technique with unprecedented dynamic range, we directly demonstrate the power-law decay characteristics of the canonical quasiparticle recombination process, and show quantization of quasiparticle trapping rate due to individual vortices. Each vortex in our aluminium film shows a quasiparticle „trapping power“ of 0.067±0.005 cm2/s, enough to dominate over the vanishingly weak recombination in a modern transmon qubit. These results highlight the prominent role of quasiparticle trapping in future development of quantum circuits, and provide a powerful characterization tool along the way.

As the energy relaxation time of superconducting qubits steadily improves, non-equilibrium quasiparticle excitations above the superconducting gap emerge as an increasingly relevantlimit for qubit coherence. We measure fluctuations in the number of quasiparticle excitations by continuously monitoring the spontaneous quantum jumps between the states of a fluxonium qubit, in conditions where relaxation is dominated by quasiparticle loss. Resolution on the scale of a single quasiparticle is obtained by performing quantum non-demolition projective measurements within a time interval much shorter than T1, using a quantum limited amplifier (Josephson Parametric Converter). The quantum jumps statistics switches between the expected Poisson distribution and a non-Poissonian one, indicating large relative fluctuations in the quasiparticle population, on time scales varying from seconds to hours. This dynamics can be modified controllably by injecting quasiparticles or by seeding quasiparticle-trapping vortices by cooling down in magnetic field.