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Microwave Electromechanics: Measuring and Manipulating the Quantum State of a Macroscopic Mechanical Oscillator

TitleMicrowave Electromechanics: Measuring and Manipulating the Quantum State of a Macroscopic Mechanical Oscillator
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHarlow, JW

In the past several years, the field of optomechanics has progressed from proof-of-principle experiments to the realization of mechanical oscillators and measurements in the quantum regime. Mechanical oscillators are of great interest because they can have small dissipation rates, can couple to many different systems of interest, and are the fundamental elements of ultrasensitive force detectors. Coupling these mechanical oscillators to microwave or optical fields provides a twofold advantage. Firstly, information about mechanical position can be encoded in the interrogating field, enabling sensitive readout of the mechanical oscillator. Secondly, the radiation pressure force of that field can be used to control the state of the mechanical oscillator. Including a high-quality microwave or optical cavity enhances both of these effects, as the field strength is resonantly increased.

The major questions in the field of optomechanics in the last several years have dealt with using mechanical oscillators for ultrasensitive measurements and as tools for quantum information. Both of these goals have the prerequisite that we be able to read out the motion of the mechanical oscillator in a quantum efficient manner. To that end, we developed a nearly shot-noise limited microwave interferometer capable of measuring mechanical motion with an imprecision below that at the standard quantum limit. This achievement is not only a critical improvement for the electromechanical experiments we do, but is also an important tool for any experiment that encodes the information of interest in microwave fields. In order to use mechanical oscillators as tools for quantum information, the mechanical oscillator must also be cooled into the quantum regime and fully controllable by the interrogating fields. To this end, we used the radiation pressure of microwave fields to cool our macroscopic mechanical oscillator to less than one phonon. We also demonstrated coherent transfer between itinerant microwave states and the mechanical oscillator, even for incident fields with less than one photon of energy.

These accomplishments have set the foundation for further experiments to extend the quantum information abilities of optomechanical systems, couple diverse quantum systems via a mechanical intermediary, and potentially explore the foundations of quantum mechanics at macroscopic scales.