Simon E. Nigg


Department of Physics
University of Basel
Klingelbergstrasse 82
CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland

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tel: +41 (0)61 207 3751 (office)
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Research Interests

Curriculum Vitae (CV)


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1.  Quantum synchronization blockade: Energy quantization hinders synchronization of identical oscillators
Niels Loerch, Simon E. Nigg, Andreas Nunnenkamp, Rakesh P. Tiwari, and Christoph Bruder.

Classically, the tendency towards spontaneous synchronization is strongest if the natural frequencies of the self-oscillators are as close as possible. We show that this wisdom fails in the deep quantum regime, where the uncertainty of amplitude narrows down to the level of single quanta. Under these circumstances identical self-oscillators cannot synchronize and detuning their frequencies can actually help synchronization. The effect can be understood in a simple picture: Interaction requires an exchange of energy. In the quantum regime, the possible quanta of energy are discrete. If the extractable energy of one oscillator does not exactly match the amount the second oscillator may absorb, interaction, and thereby synchronization is blocked. We demon- strate this effect, which we coin quantum synchronization blockade, in the minimal example of two Kerr-type self-oscillators and predict consequences for small oscillator networks, where synchronization between blocked oscillators can be mediated via a detuned oscillator. We also propose concrete implementations with super- conducting circuits and trapped ions. This paves the way for investigations of new quantum synchronization phenomena in oscillator networks both theoretically and experimentally.

2.  Superconducting grid-bus surface code architecture for hole-spin qubits
Simon E. Nigg, Andreas Fuhrer, and Daniel Loss.
arXiv:1612.07292; Phys. Rev. Lett. 118, 147701 (2017) .

We present a scalable hybrid architecture for the 2D surface code combining superconducting resonators and hole-spin qubits in nanowires with tunable direct Rashba spin-orbit coupling. The back-bone of this architecture is a square lattice of capacitively coupled coplanar waveguide resonators each of which hosts a nanowire hole-spin qubit. Both the frequency of the qubits and their coupling to the microwave field are tunable by a static electric field applied via the resonator center pin. In the dispersive regime, an entangling two-qubit gate can be realized via a third order process, whereby a virtual photon in one resonator is created by a first qubit, coherently transferred to a neighboring resonator, and absorbed by a second qubit in that resonator. Numerical simulations with state-of-the-art coherence times yield gate fidelities approaching the 99% fault tolerance threshold.

3.  Robust quantum optimizer with full connectivity
Simon E. Nigg, Niels Loerch, and Rakesh P. Tiwari.
arXiv:1609.06282; Science Advances 07 Apr 2017: Vol. 3, no. 4, e1602273.

Quantum phenomena have the potential to speed up the solution of hard optimization problems. For example quantum annealing, based on the quantum tunneling effect, has recently been shown to scale exponentially better with system size as compared with classical simulated annealing. However, current realizations of quantum annealers with superconducting qubits face two major challenges. First, the connectivity between the qubits is limited, excluding many optimization problems from a direct implementation. Second, decoherence degrades the success probability of the optimization. We address both of these shortcomings and propose an architecture in which the qubits are robustly encoded in continuous variable degrees of freedom. Remarkably, by leveraging the phenomenon of flux quantization, all-to-all connectivity is obtained without overhead. Furthermore, we demonstrate the robustness of this architecture by simulating the optimal solution of a small instance of the NP-hard and fully connected number partitioning problem in the presence of dissipation.

4.  Decoherence of high-energy electrons in weakly disordered quantum Hall edge states
Simon E. Nigg and Anders Mathias Lunde.
arxiv:1606.08574; Phys. Rev. B 94, 041407(R) (2016).

We investigate theoretically the phase coherence of electron transport in edge states of the integer quantum Hall effect at filling factor ν = 2, in the presence of disorder and inter-edge state Coulomb interaction. Within a Fokker-Planck approach, we calculate analytically the visibility of the Aharonov-Bohm oscillations of the current through an electronic Mach-Zehnder interferometer. In agreement with recent experiments, we find that the visibility is independent of the energy of the current-carrying electrons injected high above the Fermi sea. Instead, it is the amount of disorder at the edge that sets the phase space available for inter-edge state energy exchange and thereby controls the visibility suppression.

5.  Implementing and characterizing precise multi-qubit measurements
J. Z. Blumoff, K. Chou, C. Shen, M. Reagor, C. Axline, R. T. Bierley, M. P. Silveri, C. Wang, B. Vlastakis, S. E. Nigg, L. Frunzio, M. H. Devoret, L. Jiang, S. M. Girvin, and R. J. Schoelkopf.
arXiv:1606.00817; (2016); Phys. Rev. X 6, 031041 (2016) .

There are two general requirements to harness the computational power of quantum mechanics: the ability to manipulate the evolution of an isolated system and the ability to faithfully extract information from it. Quantum error correction and simulation often make a more exacting demand: the ability to perform non-destructive measurements of specific correlations within that system. We realize such measurements by employing a protocol adapted from [S. Nigg and S. M. Girvin, Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 243604 (2013)], enabling real-time selection of arbitrary register-wide Pauli operators. Our implementation consists of a simple circuit quantum electrodynamics (cQED) module of four highly-coherent 3D transmon qubits, collectively coupled to a high-Q superconducting microwave cavity. As a demonstration, we enact all seven nontrivial subset-parity measurements on our three-qubit register. For each we fully characterize the realized measurement by analyzing the detector (observable operators) via quantum detector tomography and by analyzing the quantum back-action via conditioned process tomography. No single quantity completely encapsulates the performance of a measurement, and standard figures of merit have not yet emerged. Accordingly, we consider several new fidelity measures for both the detector and the complete measurement process. We measure all of these quantities and report high fidelities, indicating that we are measuring the desired quantities precisely and that the measurements are highly non-demolition. We further show that both results are improved significantly by an additional error-heralding measurement. The analyses presented here form a useful basis for the future characterization and validation of quantum measurements, anticipating the demands of emerging quantum technologies.

6.  Statistical theory of relaxation of high energy electrons in quantum Hall edge states
Ander Mathias Lunde and Simon E. Nigg.
arXiv:1602.05039; Phys. Rev. B 94, 045409 (2016).

We investigate theoretically the energy exchange between electrons of two co-propagating, out-of-equilibrium edge states with opposite spin polarization in the integer quantum Hall regime. A quantum dot tunnel-coupled to one of the edge states locally injects electrons at high energy. Thereby a narrow peak in the energy distribution is created at high energy above the Fermi level. A second downstream quantum dot performs an energy resolved measurement of the electronic distribution function. By varying the distance between the two dots, we are able to follow every step of the energy exchange and relaxation between the edge states - even analytically under certain conditions. In the absence of translational invariance along the edge, e.g. due to the presence of disorder, energy can be exchanged by non-momentum conserving two-particle collisions. For weakly broken translational invariance, we show that the relaxation is described by coupled Fokker-Planck equations. From these we find that relaxation of the injected electrons can be understood statistically as a generalized drift-diffusion process in energy space for which we determine the drift-velocity and the dynamical diffusion parameter. Finally, we provide a physically appealing picture in terms of individual edge state heating as a result of the relaxation of the injected electrons.

7.  Nonlocal quantum state engineering with the Cooper pair splitter beyond the Coulomb blockade regime
Ehud Amitai, Rakesh Tiwari, Stefan Walter, Thomas Schmidt, and Simon E. Nigg.
arXiv:1512.02952; Phys. Rev. B 93, 075421 (2016).

A Cooper pair splitter consists of two quantum dots side-coupled to a conventional superconductor. Usually, the quantum dots are assumed to have a large charging energy compared to the superconducting gap, in order to suppress processes other than the coherent splitting of Cooper pairs. In this work, in contrast, we investigate the limit in which the charging energy is smaller than the superconducting gap. This allows us, in particular, to study the effect of a Zeeman field comparable to the charging energy. We find analytically that in this parameter regime the superconductor mediates an interdot tunneling term with a spin symmetry determined by the Zeeman field. Together with electrostatically tunable quantum dots, we show that this makes it possible to engineer a spin triplet state shared between the quantum dots. Compared to previous works, we thus extend the capabilities of the Cooper pair splitter to create entangled nonlocal electron pairs.

8.  Correlated voltage probe model of relaxation in two Coulomb-coupled edge channels
Simon E. Nigg
Physica E: Low-dimensional Systems and Nanostructures, online (2015)

A phenomenological correlated voltage probe model is introduced to mimic the effects of inelastic scattering between particles in different conduction channels of a phase coherent conductor. As an illustration, the non-equilibrium distribution functions of two noisy co-propagating chiral edge channels of the integer quantum Hall effect are calculated and compared with recent experiments. The method is further applied to calculate the linear response current noise through an interacting Mach-Zehnder interferometer.

9.  Detecting nonlocal Cooper pair entanglement by optical Bell inequality violation
Simon E. Nigg, Rakesh P. Tiwari, Stefan Walter, and Thomas L. Schmidt.
arXiv:1411.3945; Phys. Rev. B 91, 094516 (2015).

Based on the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory of superconductivity, the coherent splitting of Cooper pairs from a superconductor to two spatially separated quantum dots has been predicted to generate nonlocal pairs of entangled electrons. In order to test this hypothesis, we propose a scheme to transfer the spin state of a split Cooper pair onto the polarization state of a pair of optical photons. We show that the photon pairs produced can be used to violate a Bell inequality, unambiguously demonstrating the entanglement of the split Cooper pairs.

10.  Deterministic Hadamard gate for microwave cat-state qubits in circuit QED
Simon E. Nigg
arXiv:1401.6884; Phys. Rev. A 89, 022340 (2014).

We propose the implementation of a deterministic Hadamard gate for logical photonic qubits encoded in superpositions of coherent states of a harmonic oscillator. The proposed scheme builds on a recently introduced set of conditional operations in the strong dispersive regime of circuit QED [Z. Leghtas et al., Phys. Rev. A 87, 042315 (2013)]. We further propose an architecture for coupling two such logical qubits and provide a universal set of deterministic quantum gates. Based on parameter values taken from the current state of the art, we give estimates for the achievable gate fidelities accounting for fundamental gate imperfections and finite coherence time due to photon loss.

11.  Deterministically Encoding Quantum Information Using 100-Photon Schroedinger Cat States
Brian Vlastakis, Gerhard Kirchmair, Zaki Leghtas, Simon E. Nigg, Luigi Frunzio, S. M. Girvin, Mazyar Mirrahimi, M. H. Devoret, and R. J. Schoelkopf.
Science 342 no. 6158 pp. 607-610 (2013)

In contrast to a single quantum bit, an oscillator can store multiple excitations and coherences provided one has the ability to generate and manipulate complex multiphoton states. We demonstrate multiphoton control by using a superconducting transmon qubit coupled to a waveguide cavity resonator with a highly ideal off-resonant coupling. This dispersive interaction is much greater than decoherence rates and higher-order nonlinearities to allow simultaneous manipulation of hundreds of photons. With a tool set of conditional qubit-photon logic, we mapped an arbitrary qubit state to a superposition of coherent states, known as a “cat state.” We created cat states as large as 111 photons and extended this protocol to create superpositions of up to four coherent states. This control creates a powerful interface between discrete and continuous variable quantum computation and could enable applications in metrology and quantum information processing.

12.  Observation of quantum state collapse and revival due to the single-photon Kerr effect
Gerhard Kirchmair, Brian Vlastakis, Zaki Leghtas, Simon E. Nigg, Hanhee Paik, Eran Ginossar, Mazyar Mirrahimi, Luigi Frunzio, S. M. Girvin, and R. J. Schoelkopf.
Nature 495, 205 (2013)

Photons are ideal carriers for quantum information as they can have a long coherence time and can be transmitted over long distances. These properties are a consequence of their weak interactions within a nearly linear medium. To create and manipulate nonclassical states of light, however, one requires a strong, nonlinear interaction at the single photon level. One approach to generate suitable interactions is to couple photons to atoms, as in the strong coupling regime of cavity QED systems. In these systems, however, one only indirectly controls the quantum state of the light by manipulating the atoms. A direct photon-photon interaction occurs in so-called Kerr media, which typically induce only weak nonlinearity at the cost of significant loss. So far, it has not been possible to reach the single-photon Kerr regime, where the interaction strength between individual photons exceeds the loss rate. Here, using a 3D circuit QED architecture, we engineer an artificial Kerr medium which enters this regime and allows the observation of new quantum effects. We realize a Gedankenexperiment proposed by Yurke and Stoler, in which the collapse and revival of a coherent state can be observed. This time evolution is a consequence of the quantization of the light field in the cavity and the nonlinear interaction between individual photons. During this evolution non-classical superpositions of coherent states, i.e. multi-component Schroedinger cat states, are formed. We visualize this evolution by measuring the Husimi Q-function and confirm the non-classical properties of these transient states by Wigner tomography. The single-photon Kerr effect could be employed in QND measurement of photons, single photon generation, autonomous quantum feedback schemes and quantum logic operations.

13.  Frequency-dependent admittance of a short superconducting weak link
F. Kos, S. E. Nigg, and L. I. Glazman.
arXiv:1303.2918; Phys. Rev. B 87, 174521 (2013).

We consider the linear and non-linear electromagnetic responses of a nanowire connecting two bulk superconductors. Andreev states appearing at a finite phase bias substantially affect the finite-frequency admittance of such a wire junction. Electron transitions involving Andreev levels are easily saturated, leading to the nonlinear effects in photon absorption for the sub-gap photon energies. We evaluate the complex admittance analytically at arbitrary frequency and arbitrary, possibly non-equilibrium, occupation of Andreev levels. Special care is given to the limits of a single-channel contact and a disordered metallic weak link. We also evaluate the quasi-static fluctuations of admittance induced by fluctuations of the occupation factors of Andreev levels. In view of possible qubit applications, we compare properties of a weak link with those of a tunnel Josephson junction. Compared to the latter, a weak link has smaller low-frequency dissipation. However, because of the deeper Andreev levels, the low-temperature quasi-static fluctuations of the inductance of a weak link are exponentially larger than of a tunnel junction. These fluctuations limit the applicability of nanowire junctions in superconducting qubits.

14.  Stabilizer quantum error correction toolbox for superconducting qubits
Simon E. Nigg and Steven M. Girvin.
arXiv:1212.4000; Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 243604 (2013).

We present a general protocol for stabilizer measurements and pumping in a system of N superconducting qubits. We assume always-on, equal dispersive couplings to a single mode of a high-Q microwave resonator in the ultra-strong dispersive limit where the dispersive shifts largely exceed the spectral linewidth. In this limit, we show how to map the two eigenvalues of an arbitrary weight M < N Pauli operator, onto two quasi-orthogonal coherent states of the cavity. Together with a fast cavity readout, this enables the efficient measurement of stabilizer operators.

15.  Black-box superconducting circuit quantization
Simon E. Nigg, Hanhee Paik, Brian Vlastakis, Gerhard Kirchmair, Shyam Shankar, Luigi Frunzio, Michel Devoret, Robert Schoelkopf, and Steven Girvin.
arXiv:1204.0587; Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 240502 (2012).

We present a semi-classical method for determining the effective low-energy quantum Hamiltonian of weakly anharmonic superconducting circuits containing mesoscopic Josephson junctions coupled to electromagnetic environments made of an arbitrary combination of distributed and lumped elements. A convenient basis, capturing the multi-mode physics, is given by the quantized eigenmodes of the linearized circuit and is fully determined by a classical linear response function. The method is used to calculate numerically the low-energy spectrum of a 3D-transmon system, and quantitative agreement with measurements is found.

16.  Decoherence of superconducting qubits caused by quasiparticle tunneling
G. Catelani, Simon E. Nigg, S. M. Girvin, R. J. Schoelkopf, and L. I. Glazman.
arXiv:1207.7084; Phys. Rev. B 86, 184514 (2012).

In superconducting qubits, the interaction of the qubit degree of freedom with quasiparticles defines a fundamental limitation for the qubit coherence. We develop a theory of the pure dephasing rate \Gamma_{\phi} caused by quasiparticles tunneling through a Josephson junction and of the inhomogeneous broadening due to changes in the occupations of Andreev states in the junction. To estimate \Gamma_{\phi}, we derive a master equation for the qubit dynamics. The tunneling rate of free quasiparticles is enhanced by their large density of states at energies close to the superconducting gap. Nevertheless, we find that \Gamma_{\phi} is small compared to the rates determined by extrinsic factors in most of the current qubit designs (phase and flux qubits, transmon, fluxonium). The split transmon, in which a single junction is replaced by a SQUID loop, represents an exception that could make possible the measurement of \Gamma_{\phi}. Fluctuations of the qubit frequency leading to inhomogeneous broadening may be caused by the fluctuations in the occupation numbers of the Andreev states associated with a phase-biased Josephson junction. This mechanism may be revealed in qubits with small-area junctions, since the smallest relative change in frequency it causes is of the order of the inverse number of transmission channels in the junction.

17.  Realization of Three-Qubit Quantum Error Correction with Superconducting Circuits
M. D. Reed, L. DiCarlo, S. E. Nigg, L. Sun, L. Frunzio, S. M. Girvin, and R. J. Schoelkopf.
Nature 482, 382-385 (2012)

Quantum computers promise to solve certain problems exponentially faster than possible classically but are challenging to build because of their increased susceptibility to errors. Remarkably, however, it is possible to detect and correct errors without destroying coherence by using quantum error correcting codes [1]. The simplest of these are the three-qubit codes, which map a one-qubit state to an entangled three-qubit state and can correct any single phase-flip or bit-flip error of one of the three qubits, depending on the code used [2]. Here we demonstrate both codes in a superconducting circuit by encoding a quantum state as previously shown [3,4], inducing errors on all three qubits with some probability, and decoding the error syndrome by reversing the encoding process. This syndrome is then used as the input to a three-qubit gate which corrects the primary qubit if it was flipped. As the code can recover from a single error on any qubit, the fidelity of this process should decrease only quadratically with error probability. We implement the correcting three-qubit gate, known as a conditional-conditional NOT (CCNot) or Toffoli gate, using an interaction with the third excited state of a single qubit, in 63 ns. We find 85\pm1% fidelity to the expected classical action of this gate and 78\pm1% fidelity to the ideal quantum process matrix. Using it, we perform a single pass of both quantum bit- and phase-flip error correction with 76\pm0.5% process fidelity and demonstrate the predicted first-order insensitivity to errors. Concatenating these two codes and performing them on a nine-qubit device would correct arbitrary single-qubit errors. When combined with recent advances in superconducting qubit coherence times [5,6], this may lead to scalable quantum technology.

18.  Interaction induced edge channel equilibration
Anders Mathias Lunde, Simon E. Nigg, and Markus Buttiker.
arXiv:0910.2476; Phys. Rev. B 81, 041311(R) (2010).

The electronic distribution functions of two Coulomb coupled chiral edge states forming a quasi-1D system with broken translation invariance are found using the equation of motion approach. We find that relaxation and thereby energy exchange between the two edge states is determined by the shot noise of the edge states generated at a quantum point contact (QPC). In close vicinity to the QPC, we derive analytic expressions for the distribution functions. We further give an iterative procedure with which we can compute numerically the distribution functions arbitrarily far away from the QPC. Our results are compared with recent experiments of Le Sueur et al..

19.  Universal detector efficiency of a mesoscopic capacitor
Simon E. Nigg and Markus Buttiker.
arXiv:0902.0686; Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 236801 (2009).

We investigate theoretically a novel type of high frequency quantum detector based on the mesoscopic capacitor recently realized by Gabelli et al., [Science {\bf 313}, 499 (2006)], which consists of a quantum dot connected via a single channel quantum point contact to a single lead. We show that the state of a double quantum dot charge qubit capacitively coupled to this detector can be read out in the GHz frequency regime with near quantum limited efficiency. To leading order, the quantum efficiency is found to be universal owing to the universality of the charge relaxation resistance of the mesoscopic capacitor.

20.  Mesoscopic Capacitance Oscillations
Markus Buttiker and Simon E. Nigg.
arXiv:cond-mat/0608417; Nanotechnology 18, 044029 (2007).

We examine oscillations as a function of Fermi energy in the capacitance of a mesoscopic cavity connected via a single quantum channel to a metallic contact and capacitively coupled to a back gate. The oscillations depend on the distribution of single levels in the cavity, the interaction strength and the transmission probability through the quantum channel. We use a Hartree-Fock approach to exclude self-interaction. The sample specific capacitance oscillations are in marked contrast to the charge relaxation resistance, which together with the capacitance defines the RC-time, and which for spin polarized electrons is quantized at half a resistance quantum. Both the capacitance oscillations and the quantized charge relaxation resistance are seen in a strikingly clear manner in a recent experiment.

21.  Role of coherence in resistance quantization
Markus Buttiker and Simon E. Nigg.
arXiv:0806.1821; Eur. Phys. J. Special Topics 172, 247 - 255 (2009).

The quantization of resistances in the quantum Hall effect and ballistic transport through quantum point contacts is compared with the quantization of the charge relaxation resistance of a coherent mesoscopic capacitor. While the former two require the existence of a perfectly transmitting channel, the charge relaxation resistance remains quantized for arbitrary backscattering. The quantum Hall effect and the quantum point contact require only local phase coherence. In contrast quantization of the charge relaxation resistance requires global phase coherence.

22.  Quantum to Classical Transition of the Charge Relaxation Resistance of a Mesoscopic Capacitor
Simon E. Nigg and Markus Buttiker.
arXiv:0709.3956; Phys. Rev. B 77, 085312 (2008).

We present an analysis of the effect of dephasing on the single channel charge relaxation resistance of a mesoscopic capacitor in the linear low frequency regime. The capacitor consists of a cavity which is via a quantum point contact connected to an electron reservoir and Coulomb coupled to a gate. The capacitor is in a perpendicular high magnetic field such that only one (spin polarized) edge state is (partially) transmitted through the contact. In the coherent limit the charge relaxation resistance for a single channel contact is independent of the transmission probability of the contact and given by half a resistance quantum. The loss of coherence in the conductor is modeled by attaching to it a fictitious probe, which draws no net current. In the incoherent limit one could expect a charge relaxation resistance that is inversely proportional to the transmission probability of the quantum point contact. However, such a two terminal result requires that scattering is between two electron reservoirs which provide full inelastic relaxation. We find that dephasing of a single edge state in the cavity is not sufficient to generate an interface resistance. As a consequence the charge relaxation resistance is given by the sum of one constant interface resistance and the (original) Landauer resistance. The same result is obtained in the high temperature regime due to energy averaging over many occupied states in the cavity. Only for a large number of open dephasing channels, describing spatially homogenous dephasing in the cavity, do we recover the two terminal resistance, which is inversely proportional to the transmission probability of the QPC. We compare different dephasing models and discuss the relation of our results to a recent experiment.

23.  Mesoscopic Charge Relaxation
Simon E. Nigg, Rosa Lopez, and Markus Buttiker.
arXiv:cond-mat/0606603; Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 206804 (2006).

We consider charge relaxation in the mesoscopic equivalent of an RC circuit. For a single-channel, spin-polarized contact, self-consistent scattering theory predicts a universal charge relaxation resistance equal to half a resistance quantum independent of the transmission properties of the contact. This prediction is in good agreement with recent experimental results. We use a tunneling Hamiltonian formalism and show in Hartree-Fock approximation, that at zero temperature the charge relaxation resistance is universal even in the presence of Coulomb blockade effects. We explore departures from universality as a function of temperature and magnetic field.