Emergent macroscopic bistability induced by a single superconducting qubit
The photon blockade breakdown in a continuously driven cavity QED system has been proposed as a prime example for a first-order driven-dissipative quantum phase transition. However, the predicted scaling from a microscopic behavior—dominated by quantum fluctuations—to a macroscopic one—characterized by stable phases—and the associated exponents and phase diagram have not been observed so far. In this work we couple a single transmon qubit with a fixed coupling strength 𝑔 to a superconducting cavity that is in situ bandwidth 𝜅 tunable to controllably approach this thermodynamic limit. Even though the system remains microscopic, we observe its behavior becoming increasingly macroscopic as a function of 𝑔/𝜅. For the highest realized 𝑔/𝜅 of approximately 287, the system switches with a characteristic timescale as long as 6 s between a bright coherent state with approximately 8×103 intracavity photons and the vacuum state. This exceeds the microscopic timescales by 6 orders of magnitude and approaches the perfect hysteresis expected between two macroscopic attractors in the thermodynamic limit. These findings and interpretation are qualitatively supported by neoclassical theory and large-scale quantum-jump Monte Carlo simulations. Besides shedding more light on driven-dissipative physics in the limit of strong light-matter coupling, this system might also find applications in quantum sensing and metrology.
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American Physical Society
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