Quantum computing and condensed matter physics with microwave photons

Observation of a dissipative phase transition in a one-dimensional circuit QED lattice

Mattias Fitzpatrick, Neereja Sundaresan, Andy C. Y. Li, Jens Koch, and A. A. Houck

Condensed matter physics has been driven forward by significant experimental and theoretical progress in the study and understanding of equilibrium phase transitions based on symmetry and topology. However, nonequilibrium phase transitions have remained a challenge, in part due to their complexity in theoretical descriptions and the additional experimental difficulties in systematically controlling systems out of equilibrium. Here, we study a one-dimensional chain of 72 microwave cavities, each coupled to a superconducting qubit, and coherently drive the system into a nonequilibrium steady state. We find experimental evidence for a dissipative phase transition in the system in which the steady state changes dramatically as the mean photon number is increased. Near the boundary between the two observed phases, the system demonstrates bistability, with characteristic switching times as long as 60 ms -- far longer than any of the intrinsic rates known for the system. This experiment demonstrates the power of circuit QED systems for studying nonequilibrium condensed matter physics and paves the way for future experiments exploring nonequilbrium physics with many-body quantum optics.