We demonstrate an on-demand source of microwave single photons with 71–99% intrinsic quantum efficiency. The source is narrowband (300unite{kHz}) and tuneable over a 600 MHzrange around 5.2 GHz. Such a device is an important element in numerous quantum technologies and applications. The device consists of a superconducting transmon qubit coupled to the open end of a transmission line. A π-pulse excites the qubit, which subsequently rapidly emits a single photon into the transmission line. A cancellation pulse then suppresses the reflected π-pulse by 33.5 dB, resulting in 0.005 photons leaking into the photon emission channel. We verify strong antibunching of the emitted photon field and determine its Wigner function. Non-radiative decay and 1/f flux noise both affect the quantum efficiency. We also study the device stability over time and identify uncorrelated discrete jumps of the pure dephasing rate at different qubit frequencies on a time scale of hours, which we attribute to independent two-level system defects in the device dielectrics, dispersively coupled to the qubit.

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 experimentally investigate a superconducting qubit coupled to the end of an open transmission line, in a regime where the qubit decay rates to the transmission line and to its ownenvironment are comparable. We perform measurements of coherent and incoherent scattering, on- and off-resonant fluorescence, and time-resolved dynamics to determine the decay and decoherence rates of the qubit. In particular, these measurements let us discriminate between non-radiative decay and pure dephasing. We combine and contrast results across all methods and find consistent values for the extracted rates. The results show that the pure dephasing rate is one order of magnitude smaller than the non-radiative decay rate for our qubit. Our results indicate a pathway to benchmark decoherence rates of superconducting qubits in a resonator-free setting.