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Seminar | Materials Science Seminar | Materials Science Division

Quantum Electrodynamics of Superconductor-Insulator Phase Transition in 1-D and 0-D Systems

MSD Seminar

Abstract: A chain of Josephson junctions implements one of the simplest many-body models undergoing a superconductor-insulator (SI) quantum phase transition between states with zero and infinite resistance. Apart from zero resistance, the superconducting state is necessarily accompanied by a sound-like mode due to collective oscillations of the phase of the complex-valued order parameter. Exciting this phase mode results in transverse photons propagating along the chain. Surprisingly little is known about the fate of this mode upon entering the insulating state, where the order parameter’s amplitude remains non-zero, but the phase ordering is melted” by quantum fluctuations. Here we report momentum-resolved radio-frequency spectroscopy of collective modes in nanofabricated chains of Al/AlOx/Al tunnel junctions. We find that the phase mode survives remarkably far into the insulating régime, such that MΩ-resistance chains carry GHz-frequency alternating currents as nearly ideal superconductors. The insulator reveals itself through broadening and random frequency shifts of collective mode resonances, originated from intrinsic interactions. By pushing the chain parameters deeper into the insulating state, we achieved propagation with the speed of light down to 8×105 m/s and the wave impedance up to 23 kΩ. The latter quantity exceeds the predicted critical impedance by an order of magnitude, which opens the problem of quantum electrodynamics of a Bose glass insulator for both theory and experiment. Notably, the effective fine structure constant of such a 1-D vacuum exceeds a unity, promising transformative applications to quantum science and technology.

In this talk, we will also present more recent experiments on a single weak link embedded into a nominally homogeneous Josephson chain, which implements the boundary sine-Gordon quantum impurity model, relevant in the context of backscattering in a Luttinger liquid and dissipative phase localization-delocalization (Schmid-Bulgadaev) transition in a resistively-shunted Josephson junction. By applying a similar microwave spectroscopy technique, we explore the possible critical behavior from the viewpoint of inelastic scattering of single microwave photons. 

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