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Cavity Optomechanics at Millikelvin Temperatures


Meenehan, Sean Michael (2015) Cavity Optomechanics at Millikelvin Temperatures. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z92J68S7.


The field of cavity optomechanics, which concerns the coupling of a mechanical object's motion to the electromagnetic field of a high finesse cavity, allows for exquisitely sensitive measurements of mechanical motion, from large-scale gravitational wave detection to microscale accelerometers. Moreover, it provides a potential means to control and engineer the state of a macroscopic mechanical object at the quantum level, provided one can realize sufficiently strong interaction strengths relative to the ambient thermal noise. Recent experiments utilizing the optomechanical interaction to cool mechanical resonators to their motional quantum ground state allow for a variety of quantum engineering applications, including preparation of non-classical mechanical states and coherent optical to microwave conversion. Optomechanical crystals (OMCs), in which bandgaps for both optical and mechanical waves can be introduced through patterning of a material, provide one particularly attractive means for realizing strong interactions between high-frequency mechanical resonators and near-infrared light. Beyond the usual paradigm of cavity optomechanics involving isolated single mechanical elements, OMCs can also be fashioned into planar circuits for photons and phonons, and arrays of optomechanical elements can be interconnected via optical and acoustic waveguides. Such coupled OMC arrays have been proposed as a way to realize quantum optomechanical memories, nanomechanical circuits for continuous variable quantum information processing and phononic quantum networks, and as a platform for engineering and studying quantum many-body physics of optomechanical meta-materials.

However, while ground state occupancies (that is, average phonon occupancies less than one) have been achieved in OMC cavities utilizing laser cooling techniques, parasitic absorption and the concomitant degradation of the mechanical quality factor fundamentally limit this approach. On the other hand, the high mechanical frequency of these systems allows for the possibility of using a dilution refrigerator to simultaneously achieve low thermal occupancy and long mechanical coherence time by passively cooling the device to the millikelvin regime. This thesis describes efforts to realize the measurement of OMC cavities inside a dilution refrigerator, including the development of fridge-compatible optical coupling schemes and the characterization of the heating dynamics of the mechanical resonator at sub-kelvin temperatures.

We will begin by summarizing the theoretical framework used to describe cavity optomechanical systems, as well as a handful of the quantum applications envisioned for such devices. Then, we will present background on the design of the nanobeam OMC cavities used for this work, along with details of the design and characterization of tapered fiber couplers for optical coupling inside the fridge. Finally, we will present measurements of the devices at fridge base temperatures of Tf = 10 mK, using both heterodyne spectroscopy and time-resolved sideband photon counting, as well as detailed analysis of the prospects for future quantum applications based on the observed optically-induced heating.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:optomechanics; photonics; nanomechanics; photonic crystals; phononic crystals
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Applied Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Painter, Oskar J.
Group:Institute for Quantum Information and Matter
Thesis Committee:
  • Painter, Oskar J. (chair)
  • Vahala, Kerry J.
  • Faraon, Andrei
  • Schwab, Keith C.
Defense Date:9 March 2015
Non-Caltech Author Email:smeenehan (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03132015-135949868
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8779
Deposited By: Sean Meenehan
Deposited On:26 Mar 2015 21:47
Last Modified:02 Jun 2020 21:50

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