AQP Seminar: A superconductor free of quasiparticles for seconds

Aalto Quantum Physics Seminars (Zoom). Speaker: Elsa Mannila (Aalto University)

AQP seminar


Superconducting devices, based on the Cooper pairing of electrons, are of outstanding importance in existing and emergent technologies, ranging from radiation detectors to quantum computers. Their performance is limited by spurious broken Cooper pairs also known as quasiparticle excitations. In state-of-the-art devices, the time-averaged number of quasiparticles can be on the order of one. However, realizing a superconductor with no excitations remains an outstanding challenge. Here [1], we experimentally demonstrate a superconductor completely free of quasiparticles up to seconds. The quasiparticle number on a mesoscopic superconductor is monitored in real time by measuring the charge tunnelling to normal metal contact. Quiet excitation-free periods are interrupted by random-in-time events, where one or several Cooper pairs break, followed by a burst of charge tunnelling within a millisecond. Our results vindicate the opportunity to operate devices without quasiparticles with potentially improved performance. In addition, our present experiment probes the origins of nonequilibrium quasiparticles in it; the decay of the Cooper pair breaking rate over several weeks following the initial cooldown rules out processes arising from cosmic or long-lived radioactive sources.

[1]: E. T. Mannila, P. Samuelsson, S. Simbierowicz, J. T. Peltonen, V. Vesterinen, L. Grönberg, J. Hassel, V. F. Maisi, J. P. Pekola: arXiv:2102.00484.

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