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Negative-resistance models for parametrically flux-pumped superconducting quantum interference devices
© Sundqvist and Delsing; licensee Springer on behalf of EPJ. 2014
Received: 31 October 2013
Accepted: 6 January 2014
Published: 7 March 2014
A Superconducting QUantum Interference Device (SQUID) modulated by a fast oscillating magnetic flux can be used as a parametric amplifier, providing gain with very little added noise. Here, we develop linearized models to describe the parametrically flux-pumped SQUID in terms of an impedance. An unpumped SQUID acts as an inductance, the Josephson inductance, whereas a flux-pumped SQUID develops an additional, parallel element which we have coined the “pumpistor.” Parametric gain can be understood as a result of a negative resistance of the pumpistor. In the degenerate case, the gain is sensitive to the relative phase between the pump and signal. In the nondegenerate case, gain is independent of this phase.
We develop our models first for degenerate parametric pumping in the three-wave and four-wave cases, where the pump frequency is either twice or equal to the signal frequency, respectively. We then derive expressions for the nondegenerate case where the pump frequency is not a multiple of the signal frequency, for which it becomes necessary to consider idler tones that occur. For the nondegenerate three-wave case, we present an intuitive picture for a parametric amplifier containing a flux-pumped SQUID where current at the signal frequency depends upon the load impedance at an idler frequency. This understanding provides insight and readily testable predictions of circuits containing flux-pumped SQUIDs.
Parametric amplifiers are attractive in that they can in principle amplify a signal while only adding a minimum of noise . From this point of view, parametric amplifiers may be divided into two groups; phase sensitive amplifiers which amplify only one of the incoming quadratures, and phase insensitive amplifiers which amplify both quadratures, thereby preserving the phase of the signal. A phase sensitive amplifier can in principle amplify the signal without adding any noise. The minimum noise added by a phase insensitive amplifier corresponds to half a quantum of the amplified frequency, .
In a parametric amplifier, some parameter of the system must be varied in time. By pumping the system, i.e. modulating that parameter at one frequency, it is possible to amplify a signal at a different frequency. Power is transferred from the pump frequency to the signal frequency.
Parametric amplifiers can be realized in a large number of systems, both in optics and in electronics. A typical example in optics is a fiber-based amplifier where the refractive index of the fiber material is modulated by the pump. In other systems utilizing varactor diodes, it is the nonlinear diode capacitance which is modulated. Varactor diodes are typically used at frequencies ranging from radio to THz frequencies.
Superconducting circuits can also be used to build parametric amplifiers in the microwave domain. The use of parametric amplifiers with Josephson junctions was pioneered by several researchers in the 1970s [2–6], as well as Bernard Yurke in the 1980s [7, 8]. Josephson junctions are used as parametric inductances, and may be pumped either by a time varying current through the junction [9–11], or in a SQUID geometry by a time-varying magnetic flux [11–14]. Alternatively the kinetic inductance of a thin superconductor can be used as the parametric component [15, 16].
Parametric amplifiers based on superconducting devices have recently regained interest because of the need for better amplifiers for qubit readout and microwave quantum optics. The utility of these amplifiers have been demonstrated in a number of experiments showing single shot qubit readout , quantum feedback , vacuum squeezing , and in determining the statistics of nonclassical photon states . There are two major advantages of superconducting parametric amplifiers: (i) they have very low dissipation, and (ii) they have well characterized and engineer-able properties. This makes it possible to design well functioning parametric amplifiers with good gain and little added noise [9, 21].
To understand and implement a parametric amplifier, one often needs to solve a system of coupled equations where it may be difficult to fully appreciate the amplifier’s overall properties. Along with the resurgent use of parametric amplifiers as applied to quantum systems, a quantum optics formalism is also typically adopted to explain the amplifier.
By contrast, we recently presented  a linearized impedance model for a flux-pumped SQUID following the engineering formalism [22–24] developed for (classical) varactor diodes in the 1960s and 1970s. While a similar formalism had also been utilized for early treatments of Josephson junction parametric amplifiers , this had not been applied to the flux-pumped SQUID. The flux-pumped SQUID can be represented as a parallel combination of a Josephson inductance and an additional circuit element which we named the “pumpistor.” The pumpistor has the frequency dependence of an inductance, but it is an inductance which is complex. The phase of this complex inductance (or impedance) depends on the phase angle of the pump relative to the signal. By properly adjusting the pump, the pumpistor can act as a negative resistance. Thus, it can provide gain in the circuit. In this recent paper, we treated only the three-wave degenerate case, i.e. where the pump is applied at exactly twice the signal frequency.
In this work, we extend this pumpistor model. We revisit the three-wave degenerate case to include higher-order saturation effects. We also explore the four-wave degenerate case, which couples to the pump at higher order. Perhaps most importantly, we also treat the nondegenerate case, where the pump frequency is not a multiple of the signal frequency. Here a matrix formalism provides for the exploration of many types of nondegenerate frequency mixing, which, in addition to gain as a negative resistance, also describes up- and down-conversion of a signal.
2 The current response of a simple dc SQUID
In this section, we briefly review the relations between external magnetic flux, effective junction phase, and series current in a dc SQUID. In this work, we refer to a dc SQUID simply as a “SQUID,” and we consider it free of parasitic internal impedances. To begin, we first consider a single Josephson junction in order to introduce the Josephson relations due to the dc and ac Josephson effects .
2.1 Current and voltage in a simple Josephson junction
2.2 Extending the Josephson relations to a SQUID
We see that the SQUID acts just like a Josephson junction, but with a critical current tunable by the external magnetic flux . Note that our choice of sign convention following Ref.  eliminates the need for taking the absolute value of the quantity in Eq. (5). This is not the case in the definition commonly used in other very good and popular references (e.g., [27, 28]). In any case, for this work we consider only the situation where . Here, the quantity corresponding to is always positive regardless of convention.
In this section, we have defined the system of a SQUID by current and voltage relations similar to a single Josephson junction. We found the SQUID to be tunable by an externally applied magnetic flux. Using this framework, in the next section we examine the SQUID circuit response to a magnetic flux, applied dynamically.
3 The signal impedance of a SQUID, subject to a dynamically pumped external magnetic flux
Here is a static (“quiescent”) magnetic flux, and we use a time-dependent perturbation of the form .
3.1 An aside regarding labels and conventions
For clarity, we take the opportunity to introduce a handful of electromagnetic disturbances necessary to understand our system. These small-signal disturbances occur at different frequencies. We follow the nomenclature for frequency terms as presented by Blackwell and Kotzebue .
Regarding frequencies and how we label them, in this work we consider at most six frequencies due to possible mixing effects. Foremost, we consider a “signal” which exists at a frequency assigned to index 1. For a parametric amplifier, the signal frequency serves as the frequency of both the input and output of the device. In this case, we determine both the small-signal current and voltage components at this same signal frequency. This gives us a “signal impedance” upon which we base our subsequent reasoning. Some driven “pump” disturbance occurs at a frequency of index 3. This pump frequency corresponds to the frequency at which the SQUID is driven externally. The pumping of the SQUID provides for a nonlinear interaction to occur. Another frequency we consider is the “idler” frequency. An idler response comes about due to the nonlinear mixing between signal and pump. In the general case, we need to provide for the possibility for the idler response to exist, even if it remains as an internal state variable (serving neither as an externally accessible input or output to the circuit). Among the various topologies which allow frequency mixing, an idler tone occurs at a frequency that is some linear combination of the signal and pump frequencies. In this work we delineate an idler as either a sum or a difference between signal and pump frequencies, for either the three-wave or four-wave case. An underlying principle of the parametric amplifier is that (some portion of) the power absorbed at the pump frequency is transferred to signal and idler frequencies, allowing for an amplified response.
Our convention for the frequencies involved in mixing effects
“idler” (three-wave difference)
“idler” (three-wave sum)
“idler” (four-wave difference)
“idler” (four-wave sum)
3.2 Small-signal disturbances and the modulated SQUID current
The amplitudes , , and are complex. Eqs. (10)-(12) also demonstrate that we have adopted the electrical engineering convention for complex number, j, rather than the physics convention, i, leading to a sign convention opposite of what one would find in the quantum optics literature.
When treating these dynamics involving sinusoids, a common approximation is to implement Fourier-Bessel expansions . However, a simple Taylor expansion recovers the same result as a Fourier-Bessel expansion when approximating Bessel functions in their small-signal limit.
In some cases, such as when we consider saturation effects due to large flux amplitudes, we will expand this term to higher order.
Next, we expand the “phase” term of Eq. (13). We use simply , although we also include the cubic term in cases where we consider saturation effects due to junction phase. In the linear limit we consider the “phase” term to be the superposition of contributions from the six considered frequencies, , with taken from Eq. (12).
Equation (15) is central to this work. It informs us how the SQUID current mixes magnetic flux and junction phase, allowing for gain and dissipation effects at and between different frequencies. In what follows, we treat the response of the SQUID under various, specific pumping conditions. We begin by studying the three-wave degenerate case.
4 The three-wave degenerate case
The three-wave degenerate case was treated at length in our previous work . In a three-wave parametric amplifier or converter, a pump acts as a source of power to both a signal tone and an idler tone via a nonlinear coupling (e.g., a SQUID). We therefore consider tones at the signal (), pump (), and idler () frequencies. Energy conservation in this three-wave case gives . As we consider this condition to be degenerate, the signal and idler frequencies coincide (i.e., ).
In this section, we depart slightly from the form of Eq. (12) in that we have assumed a cosine dependence with an explicit phase angle. The amplitude is therefore now real and equal to its complex conjugate , although we retain the use of conjugate notation for generality.
We did not consider including , which is the junction phase contribution at the pump frequency (). This is because we are interested in the signal response. For frequency mixing to occur, components at different frequencies must be multiplied. As long as the approximation is valid, does not contribute to the SQUID current at the signal frequency.
Above, we have defined the following identities.
The subscript “3d” denotes the three-wave degenerate case. We identify the Josephson inductance, , from Eq. (6) for the unperturbed flux () and small phase () conditions. We therefore consider for the remainder of this work. From these definitions, Eq. (24) shows that the admittance appears as the parallel combination of the Josephson inductance and a perturbation inductance with an ac-flux dependence (i.e., “the pumpistor” ).
Here we have treated the degenerate case to first order both in pump flux and in signal phase. We recover the Josephson inductance in combination with a component representing the perturbation to the signal response. This extra impedance, as defined by its frequency dependence, is an inductor. However, its phase dependence allows it to take on complex amplitudes.
It is important to point out that, mathematically, this relation only holds at precisely the frequency . When this condition is not met, we need to resort to the general form of the nondegenerate case, which we shall treat in Sections 6 and 7.
Now, we consider some saturation arguments for this three-wave degenerate case.
4.1 Saturation of the pump flux for the three-wave degenerate case
As in the theory of mixers  and other nonlinear devices, the nonlinear properties of the driven SQUID lead also to saturation effects. These effects include the amplitude-dependent modifications of the Josephson inductance, as well as the gain compression of the incremental response.
This is not a particularly useful constraint, as we already knew that we wish to keep the total external flux below . However, we could say that this constraint reinforces the notion that, for properly linearized behavior, should be maintained at some small fraction of .
4.2 Saturation in the signal phase (or voltage) for the three-wave degenerate case
5 The four-wave degenerate case
Next, we take interest in the SQUID with zero dc flux. When the dc flux is zero, the first derivative of inductance as a function of flux is also zero. We notice from Eq. (27) that becomes infinite (an “open”) and no longer contributes to the circuit. In fact, all of the odd powers of will disappear from the “flux” term of Eq. (15). The reason for this can be attributed to the symmetric behavior of the unbiased device. Yet it is still possible to achieve parametric amplification among the even harmonics of the admittance expansion in flux, in a degenerate case without an idler tone distinct from a signal (). In this case one must use four-wave degenerate mixing, where we can consider this as two pump photons interacting with a signal photon and an idler photon (i.e., ).
As in the three-wave degenerate case, both idler and signal tones occur at identically the same frequency and we consider only the disturbance of their combined response. Again, we treat this degenerate tone as the signal () response.
In this case, we have defined the following.
So we find that the admittance which is proportionate to has both phase-insensitive and phase-sensitive terms. Note also the dependence on the pump phase in is different by 2 compared to the phase angle of Eq. (25). Also in this four-wave degenerate case, we can produce a negative resistance, and consequently gain, from the term by adjusting accordingly.
In the next sections, we turn to the more general case of nondegenerate operation. There, the idler response must now be considered separately from the signal response.
6 General conditions for nondegenerate parametric effects using the small-signal admittance matrix
We now consider specifically nondegenerate mixing conditions. Here, “nondegenerate” asserts its standard meaning that all frequency terms under consideration are unique, i.e., for all . Where any of our six considered mixing frequencies (Table 1) may contribute to a flux-pumped SQUID circuit, we work within our typical small-signal limit using a linearized system of equations. From this, we will develop an equivalent admittance matrix.
As before, the SQUID current is directly related to the junction phase by the dc Josephson effect as in Eq. (15). However, we include a 2nd-order expansion of the “flux” term of Eq. (14), which also includes dc flux. In this case, expanding the “flux” term to 2nd-order ensures nontrivial couplings to most frequency components. We wish to find the contributions of the current at different frequencies, given by the form as in Eq. (11). For a single frequency component of the junction phase, we find the current amplitudes at all considered frequencies.
We do not list in this matrix the pump current amplitude, , as it couples to none of the other six frequencies but its own ().
This admittance matrix holds true as long as the pump frequency is larger than the signal frequency () so that the “three-wave difference idler” frequency remains positive (). In the case of , some matrix elements appear instead with conjugate quantities. Similar redefinitions are also necessary if frequency were also to become negative. We consider the conditions () and () to be the standard situation.
To note, for vanishing , the limit of is unity, while and tend to zero.
The importance of the matrix equation (Eq. (43)) should be emphasized. This tells us the response of a flux-pumped SQUID between all relevant frequency components, but yet it can be used in the same form as any other n-port admittance matrix from circuit theory. So for this very general degenerate case, we may now consider a large number of three-wave and four-wave mixing devices, both as negative-resistance amplifiers and as frequency converters. It further allows us to describe a number of next-order effects which also occur in these devices.
where with is a condition met by shorting all ports, m other than the port of interest, l.
In the next section, we begin by considering a special case of Eq. (43) where the desired harmonics form a subset of the admittance matrix. The unwanted components are assumed to be zero (i.e., shorted). We will then find necessary corrections for when unwanted harmonics are instead open-circuited.
7 The three-wave nondegenerate negative-resistance parametric amplifier
When the signal frequency under consideration is not degenerate relative to the pump frequency, the findings of Sections 4 and 5 break down. We now return to considerations of three-wave mixing, but for the nondegenerate case where . In this case, it is necessary to provide for the presence of an idler junction phase (voltage) at . The idler comes about due to the nonlinear frequency coupling between the signal and pump terms. A response at the idler frequency need not be induced at the input, nor measured as an output variable, for it to play an important role as an internal state variable.
In this section, we consider the following conditions on the signal and idler frequencies.
This provides the current and voltage relations directly across the SQUID at the signal and idler frequencies. Next, we generalize the circuit such that we take into account the possible effects of other generator and load admittances.
7.1 Understanding this three-wave nondegenerate model as a circuit topology
In Figure 4(b), we depict how we can think of the effects of the external load at different frequencies by recasting this circuit in an equivalent representation. In this case, we separate into distinct impedances at frequency and at frequency . We introduce hypothetical bandpass filters which isolate and to their respective frequencies outside of the pumped SQUID. These ideal filters work by providing a high-impedance (open) at their intended frequencies, while at all other frequencies they serve as a perfect short. This topology ensures that all unwanted frequencies short the SQUID, preventing any voltage at those frequencies to accumulate. Thus, we are able to reduce the general admittance matrix of Eq. (43) to the much simpler matrix of Eq. (49). While we do not actively source the idler current, we will find that the external admittance at the idler frequency, , effects response of the SQUID at the signal frequency in an important way.
7.2 The voltage and current ratios of the three-wave nondegenerate parametric amplifier
We are not quite ready to understand how gain appears in this system. This nondegenerate case is complicated by the appearance of an idler response distinct from the signal. For instance, the idler-to-signal voltage ratio will become important. To find a relation for , we examine the second line of the matrix equation (49). While it is clear that we need to solve for , what is ? Unlike the signal response, we are not sourcing or measuring an idler current. The idler current is the result of voltage disturbances at the idler frequency, coupled to the external circuit of the surrounding electrical system. Consequently, we must specify how the circuit is loaded at the idler frequency. This is why specifying some external (conjugate) idler admittance, , was necessary in the previous section. In what follows, we complete an analysis of our generalized circuit to solve for the idler voltage and current in terms of the signal.
So the voltage of the idler response is of course a function of how well the external circuit is being kept “open” at the idler frequency, .
These limits are intuitive. We can see the idler current will be inhibited when the external circuit is comparatively more “open,” representing a small external admittance. Note the similar behavior indicated between Eqs. (58) and (61), as well as between Eqs. (59) and (62).
These quantities depict the response of the circuit at the idler frequency, , relative to the circuit behavior at the signal frequency, . We will now utilize this understanding in the next section to find how this system acts as a negative-resistance amplifier.
7.3 The input impedance of the nondegenerate three-wave parametric amplifier
To understand how this system works as an amplifier, we must find how it provides a negative resistance at the signal frequency. To this end, we seek to find the input admittance as seen at .
We have therefore represented the input admittance again as inductive terms. We determined a parallel inductance model before, in the degenerate case, but here the dependence on the pump phase is no longer present. This nondegenerate amplifier, therefore, is phase insensitive. The following terms for inductances are used.
We comment on the frequency dependence of . If we subscribe to axiomatic circuit theory [31–33], our linearized inductances should have a dependence strictly proportional to jω. The second term in , which is the same term that may act as a negative resistance, also contains an extra factor, . This gives a maximum of the product at , which for this reason is why is the frequency of maximum parametric amplification (or nearly so) in a three-wave nondegenerate amplifier. Between an uncommon frequency dependence and negative-resistance behavior, it may be logical to consider this second term of as relating to something other than an inductance. Yet we choose keep the terminology of an inductance only for consistency.
To conclude this section, we repeat that we have found the negative resistance that provides gain in this three-wave nondegenerate amplifier. This appears in the imaginary component of the term from Eq. (66). Although the frequency mixing between the idler and signal is provided for by the pump, the negative resistance occurs as an effect of mapping the idler’s external (real) load admittance back onto the signal as a negative resistance.
7.4 The three-wave nondegenerate amplifier: transducer gain
The common readout implementation for a parametric amplifier (e.g., a flux-pumped SQUID) is as a reflection device coupled to a circulator and a 2nd-stage amplifier (e.g., a high electron mobility transistor (HEMT)) [7, 9, 14, 22–24]. It is therefore important that the first-stage gain of a parametrically flux-pumped SQUID be adequate to overcome the noise of subsequent gain stages. An insightful quantity in this context (in addition, say, to other quantities such as a noise figure) is the transducer gain of the device. It is straightforward to specify the transducer gain, considering the simplified circuit we have so far described in this section.
where and are from Eq. (66).
7.5 Adding open-circuited terms
As an admittance model, as opposed to an impedance model, the ideal case is for all non-intentional harmonics to be subject to an infinite admittance external to the pumped SQUID (e.g., to have a shorted external load at frequencies other than the signal and idler). This prevents voltages at these other frequencies from accumulating across the SQUID, thereby removing their influence from the admittance matrix and the resulting mixed currents. Conversely, when the external impedance is nontrivial at other frequencies, other harmonics will modify the description we have just presented.
We find this system identical to that of Eq. (49), except for the multiplicative correction factor in square brackets, , appearing in the two matrix elements of the main diagonal. This correction factor may become significant even for reasonably small δf as the dc flux, F, approaches . This is the notable difference between this open-circuited case and the short-circuited case we treated in Section 7.3.
In this section, we have determined the response of the three-wave nondegenerate amplifier as an impedance model. This is analogous to the “pumpistor” models we found for the three-wave and four-wave degenerate cases treated in Sections 4 and 5. A notable difference in this nondegenerate case is that the external admittance at the idler frequency now determines the negative resistance. As can be seen by Eq. (66), for a negative resistance to occur at the signal frequency, it is necessary that the circuit external to the SQUID at the idler frequency appear as a positive and real admittance. By treating both a “short-circuited” and an “open-circuited” model, we found that a finite external admittance at harmonics other than the signal and idler frequencies may also affect amplifier performance.
In conclusion, we have substantially extended the equivalent impedance models of a flux-pumped SQUID which we first put forth for the three-wave degenerate case . For all general classes of parametric driving, a flux-pumped SQUID can be described at the signal frequency as a Josephson inductance in parallel to an effective, flux-dependent circuit element, “the pumpistor.” Parametric amplification can be intuitively understood within this framework, as the pumpistor impedance manifests in whole or in part as a negative resistance.
We reviewed three-wave degenerate pumping, which explains why gain in this case should be phase sensitive between the signal and pump. For this case, we also extended our impedance approximation to demonstrate how the SQUID saturates both by pump flux and by junction phase (or voltage). We also depicted the four-wave degenerate case which is appropriate when the device is biased with zero-flux. Here, the pumpistor element is inversely proportionate to the square of the ac flux. We found this case also to be phase sensitive, but with a slightly different signal-to-pump difference than in the three-wave degenerate case.
We also depicted nondegenerate pumping in a very general sense, using a matrix equation formalism. This formalism accounts for the presence of one or up to four “idler” frequencies which occur as mixing tones between the pump and the signal response. Many three- and four-wave nondegenerate parametric phenomena can be interpreted from this matrix, including effects such as frequency up- and down-conversion. Using a subset of these matrix equations, we treated the three-wave nondegenerate amplifier, where the signal and single idler are considered. By solving for an idler distinct from the signal, we found that the pumpistor impedance was now phase insensitive. We found the negative resistance responsible for gain was now dependent on the external circuit admittance at the idler frequency. With regards to the other, higher harmonics, we treated the three-wave nondegenerate amplifier in both the “short-circuited” and “open-circuited” approximations. While all of these models operate under a classical, circuit-theoretic framework rather than a quantum optics framework, they should be of great benefit for future designs of experiments using superconducting circuits for quantum information purposes.
We acknowledge support from the EU through the ERC and the projects SOLID, SCALEQIT, and PROMISCE, as well as from the Swedish Research Council and the Wallenberg Foundation. We are also grateful for fruitful discussions with Chris Wilson, Seckin Kintaş, Michaël Simoen, Philip Krantz, Martin Sandberg, and Jonas Bylander.
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