A Stress Induced Source of Phonon Bursts and Quasiparticle Poisoning
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A Stress Induced Source of Phonon Bursts and Quasiparticle Poisoning


The performance of superconducting qubits is degraded by a poorly characterized set of energy sources breaking the Cooper pairs responsible for superconductivity, creating a condition often called "quasiparticle poisoning." Recently, a superconductor with one of the lowest average quasiparticle densities ever measured exhibited quasiparticles primarily produced in bursts which decreased in rate with time after cooldown. Similarly, several cryogenic calorimeters used to search for dark matter have also observed an unknown source of low-energy phonon bursts that decrease in rate with time after cooldown. Here, we show that a silicon crystal glued to its holder exhibits a rate of low-energy phonon events that is more than two orders of magnitude larger than in a functionally identical crystal suspended from its holder in a low-stress state. The excess phonon event rate in the glued crystal decreases with time since cooldown, consistent with a source of phonon bursts which contributes to quasiparticle poisoning in quantum circuits and the low-energy events observed in cryogenic calorimeters. We argue that relaxation of thermally induced stress between the glue and crystal is the source of these events, and conclude that stress relaxation contributes to quasiparticle poisoning in superconducting qubits and the athermal phonon background in a broad class of rare-event searches.

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