Date of Award


Degree Type


Embargo Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Britton L.T. Plourde


low-noise amplification, Quantum information, Quantum-limited amplifier, Superconducting device, Superconductivity

Subject Categories



Quantum-limited amplification in the microwave frequency range is of both practical and fundamental importance. The weak signals corresponding to single microwave photons require substantial amplification to resolve. When probing quantum excitations of the electromagnetic field, the substantial noise produced by standard amplifiers dominates the signal, therefore, several averages must be accumulated to achieve even a modest signal-to-noise ratio. Even worse, the back-action on the system due to amplifier noise can hasten the decay of the quantum state. In recent years, low-noise microwave-frequency amplification has been advancing rapidly and one field that would benefit greatly from this is circuit quantum electrodynamics (cQED). The development of circuit quantum electrodynamics---which implements techniques of quantum optics at microwave frequencies---has led to revolutionary progress in the field of quantum information science. cQED employs quantum bits (qubits) and superconducting microwave resonators in place of the atoms and cavities used in quantum optics permitting preparation and control of low energy photon states in macroscopic superconducting circuits at millikelvin temperatures. We have developed a microstrip superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) amplifier (MSA) to provide the first stage of amplification for these systems. Employing sub-micron Josephson tunnel junctions for enhanced gain, these MSAs operate at microwave frequencies and are optimized to perform with near quantum-limited noise characteristics.

Our MSA is utilized as the first stage of amplification to probe the dynamics of a SQUID oscillator. The SQUID oscillator is a flux-tunable microwave resonator formed by a capacitively shunted dc SQUID. Josephson plasma oscillations are induced by pulsed microwave excitations at the resonant frequency of the oscillator. Once pulsed, decaying plasma oscillations are observed in the time domain. By measuring with pulse amplitudes approaching the critical current of the SQUID, it is possible to probe the free evolution of a highly nonlinear oscillator.


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