Synopsis: Turning the Optomechanical Tables

An optomechanical system in which light and matter exchange roles promises new kinds of quantum states.
Synopsis figure
K. Zhang et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. (2012)

As the name implies, optomechanics involves coupling photons to macroscopic devices. Recently, researchers have studied these kinds of coupled devices in the search for observable quantum effects in large objects. The conventional approach is to hook some mechanical resonator (think of a mass on a spring) to an optical resonator (a mirrored cavity that holds photons). Properly tuned, the radiation pressure of the photons can modify the mechanical motion, even cooling the system to near the quantum limit. But now, Keye Zhang of East China Normal University, Shanghai, and colleagues report in Physical Review Letters their theoretical analysis of a system that reverses the roles of light and matter.

The latest implementations of optomechanics rely on a cloud of ultracold atoms to play the mechanical system. Zhang et al., however, consider the case of a Bose-Einstein condensate trapped in an optical cavity, where the optical resonator photon field takes the part of the mechanical system being cooled by the “radiation pressure” of the atomic matter wave of the BEC. In practice, this means the oscillations of the BEC can be adjusted to damp or amplify fluctuations in the optical field. The authors show theoretically that this could lead to a variety of unusual quantum states in the system.

Assuming the experimental challenges—and there are many—of actually building this kind of device can be met, the new configuration could offer advantages both in the study of fundamental quantum behavior and in high-precision measurement. – David Voss


Announcements

More Announcements »

Subject Areas

Atomic and Molecular PhysicsOpticsQuantum Physics

Previous Synopsis

Next Synopsis

Atomic and Molecular Physics

Helium Ions Give Electrons the Shake-Off

Read More »

Related Articles

Synopsis: Testing Quantum Physics with Neutrinos
Quantum Physics

Synopsis: Testing Quantum Physics with Neutrinos

An experiment similar to the Bell inequality test confirms that neutrino oscillation is a quantum physics effect that is incompatible with alternative classical models. Read More »

Focus: Two Atoms Can Jointly Absorb One Photon
Quantum Physics

Focus: Two Atoms Can Jointly Absorb One Photon

Theorists show that two atoms in an optical cavity can absorb the same photon. Read More »

Synopsis: Taking Pictures with Single Ions
Atomic and Molecular Physics

Synopsis: Taking Pictures with Single Ions

A new ion microscope with nanometer-scale resolution builds up images using single ions emitted one at a time from an ion trap. Read More »

More Articles