Quantum correlations from a room-temperature optomechanical cavity

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Science  23 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6344, pp. 1265-1268
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag1407

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Quantum effects in ambient conditions

Quantum back action—the “reaction” of a quantum mechanical object to being measured—is normally observed at cryogenic temperatures, where it is easier to distinguish from thermal motion. Purdy et al. managed to tease out the effects of quantum back action at room temperature by using a mechanical oscillator and probing it with light (see the Perspective by Harris). The fluctuations of the force produced by the light probe caused correlated changes to the motion of the oscillator and the properties of the transmitted light. These correlations revealed the effects of the back action, which allows the system to be used as a quantum thermometer.

Science, this issue p. 1265; see also p. 1232


The act of position measurement alters the motion of an object being measured. This quantum measurement backaction is typically much smaller than the thermal motion of a room-temperature object and thus difficult to observe. By shining laser light through a nanomechanical beam, we measure the beam’s thermally driven vibrations and perturb its motion with optical force fluctuations at a level dictated by the Heisenberg measurement-disturbance uncertainty relation. We demonstrate a cross-correlation technique to distinguish optically driven motion from thermally driven motion, observing this quantum backaction signature up to room temperature. We use the scale of the quantum correlations, which is determined by fundamental constants, to gauge the size of thermal motion, demonstrating a path toward absolute thermometry with quantum mechanically calibrated ticks.

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