March 2, 2024
Journal Article

Ultrathin Magnesium-based Coating as an Efficient Oxygen Barrier for Superconducting Circuit Materials


Scaling up superconducting quantum circuits based on transmon qubits necessitates substantial enhancements in qubit coherence time. Over recent years, tantalum (Ta) has emerged as a promising candidate for transmon qubits, surpassing conventional counterparts in terms of coherence time. However, amorphous surface Ta oxide layer may introduce dielectric loss, ultimately placing a limit on the coherence time. In this study, we present a novel approach for suppressing the formation of tantalum oxide using an ultrathin magnesium (Mg) capping layer. Synchrotron-based X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) studies demonstrate that oxide is confined to an extremely thin region directly beneath the Mg/Ta interface. Additionally, we demonstrate that the superconducting properties of thin Ta films are improved following the Mg capping, exhibiting sharper and higher-temperature transitions to superconductive and magnetically ordered states. Moreover, we establish an atomic-scale mechanistic understanding of the role of the capping layer in protecting Ta from oxidation based on computational modeling. This work provides valuable insights into the formation mechanism and functionality of surface tantalum oxide, as well as a new materials design principle with the potential to reduce dielectric loss in superconducting quantum materials. Ultimately, our findings pave the way for the realization of large-scale, high-performance quantum computing systems.

Published: March 2, 2024


Zhou C., J. Mun, J. Yao, A. Anbalagan, M. Hossain, R.A. McLellan, and R. Li, et al. 2024. Ultrathin Magnesium-based Coating as an Efficient Oxygen Barrier for Superconducting Circuit Materials. Advanced Materials 23. PNNL-SA-194072. doi:10.1002/adma.202310280

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