Superconducting qubit to optical photon transduction
Conversion of electrical and optical signals lies at the foundation of the global internet. Such converters are used to extend the reach of long-haul fibre-optic communication systems and within data centres for high-speed optical networking of computers. Likewise, coherent microwave-to-optical conversion of single photons would enable the exchange of quantum states between remotely connected superconducting quantum processors. Despite the prospects of quantum networking, maintaining the fragile quantum state in such a conversion process with superconducting qubits has not yet been achieved. Here we demonstrate the conversion of a microwave-frequency excitation of a transmon—a type of superconducting qubit—into an optical photon. We achieve this by using an intermediary nanomechanical resonator that converts the electrical excitation of the qubit into a single phonon by means of a piezoelectric interaction and subsequently converts the phonon to an optical photon by means of radiation pressure. We demonstrate optical photon generation from the qubit by recording quantum Rabi oscillations of the qubit through single-photon detection of the emitted light over an optical fibre. With proposed improvements in the device and external measurement set-up, such quantum transducers might be used to realize new hybrid quantum networks, and, ultimately, distributed quantum computers.