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Studies of noise in Josephson-effect mixers and their potential for submillimeter heterodyne detection


Schoelkopf, Robert J. (1995) Studies of noise in Josephson-effect mixers and their potential for submillimeter heterodyne detection. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/xezv-q641.


NOTE: Text or symbols not renderable in plain ASCII are indicated by [...]. Abstract is included in .pdf document. This thesis describes both theoretical and experimental investigations into the dynamics and noise processes of Josephson junctions, with the intent of evaluating their potential as mixers in heterodyne instruments for submillimeter-wave (i.e., the frequency range from 300 GHz to 3THz) detection. Superconducting tunnel junctions utilizing the nonlinearity due to photon-assisted tunneling of quasiparticles (SIS mixers) have become the state-of-the-art technology for sensitive heterodyne detection up to frequencies of about 700 [...]. Recent progress in the fabrication of high [...], superconductors has led to Josephson-effect devices with [...] products of up to ten millivolts, which might be suitable for mixing at frequencies of many terahertz. The key question for weighing the prospects for high-frequency Josephson mixers is that of the sensitivity which can be attained. Previous experimental work on Josephson mixing suggests the existence of an "excess" noise, which degrades the sensitivity. Theoretical modeling of mixer performance, based on the resistivelyshunted junction (RSJ) model for the dynamics of the device, also indicates the presence of larger noise than expected. The origin of this noise was not clearly understood, however, nor was its exact magnitude or expected scaling with frequency or junction characteristics known. In addition, previous experiments utilized crude devices of the point-contact type, which were unstable and thus undesirable for real applications. In the first part of this thesis research, extensive numerical simulations were performed with the RSJ model, including calculations of mixer noise and conversion efficiency. These calculations have revealed that the source of excess noise is the AC Josephson oscillations of the device, which can be completely incoherent, with a linewidth comparable to their frequency. Thus they appear as a broadband noise source. While this noise is intrinsic and unavoidable, an optimized mixer is still shown to be capable of interesting sensitivity levels, and the excess noise is expected to become relatively less important as the operating frequency is increased. Secondly, a process has been developed for the fabrication of stable, well-characterized, and reproducible Josephson devices based on resistively-shunted Nb and NbN tunnel junctions. The devices utilize submicron-area, high current-density tunnel junctions and a AuGe shunt resistor to yield completely non-hysteretic I-V curves, normal-state resistances of about [...] products of about half a millivolt. These devices should be nearly optimal for mixing at [...]. Heterodyne measurements using these junctions have been performed in a waveguide mixer mount. Receiver temperatures as low as 190 K (DSB), with -6 dB conversion efficiency, have been obtained at 100 [...], but these results are still a factor of about four higher than those predicted by the RSJ simulations. Accurate measurements of the available noise power of the junctions at the intermediate frequency of 1.5 [...] were made, and confirmed that the receivers were limited by elevated junction output noise. The deviations of the noise from theoretical predictions are shown to be caused by the nonlinear interaction of the junction with the embedding circuit. While this work points out some of the complexity introduced by the strong nonlinearity of Josephson devices, it is still expected that Josephson-effect mixers may be useful for heterodyne detection at very high frequencies.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Physics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Phillips, Thomas G. (advisor)
  • Zmuidzinas, Jonas (co-advisor)
Group:Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:1 November 1994
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-10232007-104241
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:4221
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:07 Nov 2007
Last Modified:19 Apr 2021 22:26

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