Systematic Improvements in Transmon Qubit Coherence Enabled by
Niobium Surface Encapsulation.
M. Bal et al. [SQMS Collaboration]
Nature Physics, submitted, (2023) [9 pages].
We present a novel transmon qubit fabrication technique that yields systematic improvements in T1 coherence times. We fabricate devices using an encapsulation strategy that involves passivating the surface of niobium and thereby preventing the formation of its lossy surface oxide. By maintaining the same superconducting metal and only varying the surface structure, this comparative investigation examining different capping materials and film substrates across different qubit foundries definitively demonstrates the detrimental impact that niobium oxides have on the coherence times of superconducting qubits, compared to native oxides of tantalum, aluminum or titanium nitride. Our surface-encapsulated niobium qubit devices exhibit T1 coherence times 2 to 5 times longer than baseline niobium qubit devices with native niobium oxides. When capping niobium with tantalum, we obtain median qubit lifetimes above 200 microseconds. Our comparative structural and chemical analysis suggests that amorphous niobium oxides may induce higher losses compared to other amorphous oxides. These results are in line with high-accuracy measurements of the niobium oxide loss tangent obtained with ultra-high Q superconducting radiofrequency (SRF) cavities. This new surface encapsulation strategy enables even further reduction of dielectric losses via passivation with ambient-stable materials, while preserving fabrication and scalable manufacturability thanks to the compatibility with silicon processes.
- Comment: 9 pages