Detecting an itinerant microwave photon with high efficiency is an outstanding problem in quantum optics at microwave frequencies and in the fundamental quantum mechanics experimental toolbox. This subject has attracted a lot of attention and there are growing number of excellent experimental demonstrations and theoretical proposals towards this aim. However, due to the extremely low energy of microwave quanta, efficiently detecting a propagating microwave photon in a non-absorbing manner is still an unresolved challenge and it is the focus of the major part of this thesis.
Motivated by a recent experiment that shows a superconducting artificial atom (a transmon) in a one-dimensional microwave transmission line exhibits gigantic cross-Kerr nonlinearities, 1000 times larger than in comparable optical systems, I investigate the possibility of detection single microwave photons using a transmon induced cross-Kerr-like interaction between two microwave fields. The photon number in one field is inferred through the measurement of the displacement of the other field. The first project on this subject is to investigate the feasibility of detecting a single microwave photon with signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) greater than unity using a three-level approximation for the transmon in an open transmission line, due to the saturation of transmon response to the probe intensity.
After that, an improved scheme was proposed to overcome the limitations in the preceding work. By using a cavity probe field the signal photon induced probe displacement is strongly enhanced. Further additional transmon-cavity units can be cascaded to further improve the detection efficiency. It is shown that with only two transmons the distinguishability to resolve a single-photon state from the vacuum is up to $90\%$. One advantage of this photon detection scheme is that it does not rely on the absorption of single microwave photons, which enables repeated measurements and further applications. Moreover, I also show how the measurement diminishes coherence in the photon number basis thereby illustrating a fundamental principle of quantum measurement: the higher the measurement efficiency, the greater is the decoherence.
Apart from the investigation on the single microwave photon detection, this thesis also studies nonlinear dynamics of a hybrid coupled-resonator and opto-mechanical system. It is shown that the saddle-node bifurcation and the Hopf bifurcation appear in the system, which leads to bistability and limit cycle dynamics of the mechanical position and the output light intensity. More importantly, the opto-mechanical nonlinearity dramatically changes the transparency window of the coupled resonator induced transparency (CRIT) and based on the narrow and bistable CRIT transparency window, the proposed system is shown to be a good platform for the weak impulsive force detection with a good sensitivity.