Frequency instability of superconducting resonators and qubits leads to dephasing and time-varying energy-loss and hinders quantum-processor tune-up. Its main source is dielectric noiseoriginating in surface oxides. Thorough noise studies are needed in order to develop a comprehensive understanding and mitigation strategy of these fluctuations. Here we use a frequency-locked loop to track the resonant-frequency jitter of three different resonator types—one niobium-nitride superinductor, one aluminium coplanar waveguide, and one aluminium cavity—and we observe strikingly similar random-telegraph-signal fluctuations. At low microwave drive power, the resonators exhibit multiple, unstable frequency positions, which for increasing power coalesce into one frequency due to motional narrowing caused by sympathetic driving of individual two-level-system defects by the resonator. In all three devices we probe a dominant fluctuator, finding that its amplitude saturates with increasing drive power, but its characteristic switching rate follows the power-law dependence of quasiclassical Landau-Zener transitions.

We perform an experimental and numerical study of dielectric loss in superconducting microwave resonators at low temperature. Dielectric loss, due to two-level systems, is a limitingfactor in several applications, e.g. superconducting qubits, Josephson parametric amplifiers, microwave kinetic-inductance detectors, and superconducting single-photon detectors. Our devices are made of disordered NbN, which, due to magnetic-field penetration, necessitates 3D finite-element simulation of the Maxwell–London equations at microwave frequencies to accurately model the current density and electric field distribution. From the field distribution, we compute the geometric filling factors of the lossy regions in our resonator structures and fit the experimental data to determine the intrinsic loss tangents of its interfaces and dielectrics. We emphasise that the loss caused by a spin-on-glass resist such as hydrogen silsesquioxane (HSQ), used for ultrahigh lithographic resolution relevant to the fabrication of nanowires, and find that, when used, HSQ is the dominant source of loss, with a loss tangent of δiHSQ=8×10−3.

We benchmark the decoherence of superconducting qubits to examine the temporal stability of energy-relaxation and dephasing. By collecting statistics during measurements spanning multipledays, we find the mean parameters T1 = 49 μs and T∗2= 95 μs, however, both of these quantities fluctuate explaining the need for frequent re-calibration in qubit setups. Our main finding is that fluctuations in qubit relaxation are local to the qubit and are caused by instabilities of near-resonant two-level-systems (TLS). Through statistical analysis, we determine switching rates of these TLS and observe the coherent coupling between an individual TLS and a transmon qubit. Finally, we find evidence that the qubit’s frequency stability is limited by capacitance noise. Importantly, this produces a 0.8 ms limit on the pure dephasing which we also observe. Collectively, these findings raise the need for performing qubit metrology to examine the reproducibility of qubit parameters, where these fluctuations could affect qubit gate fidelity.

The loss and noise mechanisms of superconducting resonators are useful tools for understanding decoherence in superconducting circuits. While the loss mechanisms have been heavily studied,noise in superconducting resonators has only recently been investigated. In particular, there is an absence of literature on noise in the single photon limit. Here, we measure the loss and noise of an aluminium on silicon quarter-wavelength (λ/4) resonator in the single photon regime.