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State preservation by repetitive error detection in a superconducting quantum circuit


Quantum computing becomes viable when a quantum state can be protected from environment-induced error. If quantum bits (qubits) are sufficiently reliable, errors are sparse and quantum error correction (QEC)1,2,3,4,5,6 is capable of identifying and correcting them. Adding more qubits improves the preservation of states by guaranteeing that increasingly larger clusters of errors will not cause logical failure—a key requirement for large-scale systems. Using QEC to extend the qubit lifetime remains one of the outstanding experimental challenges in quantum computing. Here we report the protection of classical states from environmental bit-flip errors and demonstrate the suppression of these errors with increasing system size. We use a linear array of nine qubits, which is a natural step towards the two-dimensional surface code QEC scheme7, and track errors as they occur by repeatedly performing projective quantum non-demolition parity measurements. Relative to a single physical qubit, we reduce the failure rate in retrieving an input state by a factor of 2.7 when using five of our nine qubits and by a factor of 8.5 when using all nine qubits after eight cycles. Additionally, we tomographically verify preservation of the non-classical Greenberger–Horne–Zeilinger state. The successful suppression of environment-induced errors will motivate further research into the many challenges associated with building a large-scale superconducting quantum computer.

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Figure 1: Repetition code: device and algorithm.
Figure 2: Error propagation and identification.
Figure 3: Protecting the GHZ state from bit-flip errors.
Figure 4: Logical state preservation with the repetition code.


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We thank A. N. Korotkov and D. L. Moehring for discussions, and P. Duda for help with photomasks and photolithography. This work was supported by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), through Army Research Office grants W911NF-09-1-0375 and W911NF-10-1-0334. All statements of fact, opinion or conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be construed as representing the official views or policies of IARPA, the ODNI or the US Government. Devices were made at the UC Santa Barbara Nanofabrication Facility, a part of the US NSF-funded National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, and at the NanoStructures Cleanroom Facility.

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Authors and Affiliations



J.K. and R.B. designed the sample and performed the experiment. A.G.F. and J.M.M. designed the experiment. J.K., R.B. and A.M. fabricated the sample. A.G.F., J.K. and R.B. analysed the data. J.K., R.B., A.G.F. and J.M.M. co-wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the fabrication process, experimental set-up and manuscript preparation.

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Correspondence to J. Kelly or John M. Martinis.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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This file contains Supplementary Text and Data, Supplementary Figures 1-31, Supplementary Tables 1-3 and additional references. (PDF 2886 kb)

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Kelly, J., Barends, R., Fowler, A. et al. State preservation by repetitive error detection in a superconducting quantum circuit. Nature 519, 66–69 (2015).

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