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A wideband, low-noise superconducting amplifier with high dynamic range


An ideal amplifier has very low noise, operates over a broad frequency range, and has large dynamic range. Unfortunately, it is difficult to obtain all of these characteristics simultaneously. For example, modern transistor amplifiers offer multi-octave bandwidths and excellent dynamic range, but their noise remains far above the limit set by the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. Parametric amplifiers can reach the quantum-mechanical limit, but generally are narrow band and have very limited dynamic range. Here we describe a parametric amplifier that overcomes these limitations through the use of a travelling-wave geometry and the nonlinear kinetic inductance of a superconducting transmission line. We measure gain extending over 2 GHz on either side of an 11.56 GHz pump tone and place an upper limit on the added noise of 3.4 photons at 9.4 GHz. The dynamic range is very large, and the concept can be applied from gigahertz frequencies to 1 THz.

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Figure 1: Response to d.c. current and amplifier design.
Figure 2: Circuit for paramp gain and noise measurements.
Figure 3: Measured and calculated gain.
Figure 4: Noise compared with the HEMT amplifier.


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The research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and has been supported in part by NASA (Science Mission directorate), the Keck Institute for Space Studies, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the JPL Research and Technology Development program.

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B.H.E. carried out the measurements and analysed the data. P.K.D. contributed to the device concept, designed the devices, planned the measurements, analysed the data and wrote the paper. H.G.L. developed the fabrication methods and made the devices. J.Z. contributed to the device concept and the writing of the paper.

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Correspondence to Peter K. Day.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Ho Eom, B., Day, P., LeDuc, H. et al. A wideband, low-noise superconducting amplifier with high dynamic range. Nature Phys 8, 623–627 (2012).

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