Quantum Metamaterial for Broadband Detection of Single Microwave Photons

Detecting traveling photons is an essential primitive for many quantum-information processing tasks. We introduce a single-photon detector design operating in the microwave domain, based on a weakly nonlinear metamaterial where the nonlinearity is provided by a large number of Josephson junctions. The combination of weak nonlinearity and large spatial extent circumvents well-known obstacles limiting approaches based on a localized Kerr medium. Using numerical many-body simulations we show that the single-photon detection fidelity increases with the length of the metamaterial to approach one at experimentally realistic lengths. A remarkable feature of the detector is that the metamaterial approach allows for a large detection bandwidth. The detector is nondestructive and the photon population wavepacket is minimally disturbed by the detection. This detector design offers promising possibilities for quantum information processing, quantum optics and metrology in the microwave frequency domain.