Macroscopic quantum tunneling is a fundamental phenomenon of quantum mechanics related to the actively debated topic of quantum-to-classical transition. The ability to realize macroscopic quantum tunneling affects implementation of qubit-based quantum computing schemes and their protection against decoherence. Decoherence in qubits can be reduced by means of topological protection, e.g., by exploiting various parity effects. In particular, paired phase slips can provide such protection for superconducting qubits. Here, we report on the direct observation of quantum paired phase slips in thin-wire superconducting loops. We show that in addition to conventional single phase slips that change the superconducting order parameter phase by 2π, there are quantum transitions that change the phase by 4π. Quantum paired phase slips represent a synchronized occurrence of two macroscopic quantum tunneling events, i.e., cotunneling. We demonstrate the existence of a remarkable regime in which paired phase slips are exponentially more probable than single ones.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)