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Quantum amplification of mechanical oscillator motion

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Science  21 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6446, pp. 1163-1165
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw2884

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Improving precision with quantum amplification

Quantum mechanically, an object can be described by a pair of noncommuting observables, typically by its position and momentum. The precision to which these observables can be measured is limited by unavoidable quantum fluctuations. However, the method of “squeezing” allows the fluctuations to be manipulated, while preserving the Heisenberg uncertainty relation. This allows improved measurement precision for one observable at the expense of increased fluctuations in the other. Burd et al. now show that an additional displacement of a trapped atom results in amplification of the squeezing and a further improvement in the precision with which the displacement can be determined (see the Perspective by Schleier-Smith). This technique should be useful for a number of applications in metrology.

Science, this issue p. 1163; see also p. 1137

Abstract

Detection of the weakest forces in nature is aided by increasingly sensitive measurements of the motion of mechanical oscillators. However, the attainable knowledge of an oscillator’s motion is limited by quantum fluctuations that exist even if the oscillator is in its lowest possible energy state. We demonstrate a technique for amplifying coherent displacements of a mechanical oscillator with initial magnitudes well below these zero-point fluctuations. When applying two orthogonal squeezing interactions, one before and one after a small displacement, the displacement is amplified, ideally with no added quantum noise. We implemented this protocol with a trapped-ion mechanical oscillator and determined an increase by a factor of up to 7.3 (±0.3) in sensitivity to small displacements.

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