Back-Action Evading Measurements of Nanomechanical Motion Approaching Quantum Limits
Hertzberg, Jared Barney
Schwab, Keith C
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The application of quantum mechanics to macroscopic motion suggests many counterintuitive phenomena. While the quantum nature of the motion of individual atoms and molecules has long been successfully studied, an equivalent demonstration of the motion of a near-macroscopic structure remains a challenge in experimental physics. A nanomechanical resonator is an excellent system for such a study. It typically contains > 10<super>10</super> atoms, and it may be modeled in terms of macroscopic parameters such as bulk density and elasticity. Yet it behaves like a simple harmonic oscillator, with mass low enough and resonant frequency high enough for its quantum zero-point motion and single energy quanta to be experimentally accessible. In pursuit of quantum phenomena in a mechanical oscillator, two important goals are to prepare the oscillator in its quantum ground state, and to measure its position with a precision limited by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. In this work we have demonstrated techniques that advance towards both of these goals. Our system comprises a 30 micron × 170 nm, 2.2 pg, 5.57 MHz nanomechanical resonator capacitively coupled to a 5 GHz superconducting microwave resonator. The microwave resonator and nanomechanical resonator are fabricated together onto a single silicon chip and measured in a dilution refrigerator at temperatures below 150 mK. At these temperatures the coupling of the motion to the thermal environment is very small, resulting in a very high mechanical Q, approaching ∼ 10<super>6</super>. By driving with a microwave pump signal, we observed sidebands generated by the mechanical motion and used these to measure the thermal motion of the resonator. Applying a pump tone red-detuned from the microwave resonance, we used the microwave field to damp the mechanical resonator, extracting energy and "cooling" the motion in a manner similar to optical cooling of trapped atoms. Starting from a mode temperature of ∼ 150 mK, we reached ∼ 40 mK by this "backaction cooling" technique, corresponding to an occupation factor only ∼ 150 times above the ground state of motion. We also determined the precision of our device in measurement of position. Quantum mechanics dictates that, in a continuous position measurement, the precision may be no better than the zero-point motion of the resonator. Increasing the coupling of the resonator to detector will eventually result in back-action driving of the motion, adding imprecision and enforcing this limit. We demonstrated that our system is capable of precisions approaching this limit, and identified the primary experimental factors preventing us from reaching it: noise added to the measurement by our amplifier, and excess dissipation appearing in our microwave resonator at high pump powers. Furthermore, by applying both red- and blue-detuned phase-coherent microwave pump signals, we demonstrated back-action evading (BAE) measurement sensitive to only a single quadrature of the motion. By avoiding the back-action driving in the measured quadrature, such a technique has the potential for precisions surpassing the limit of the zero-point motion. With this method, we achieved a measurement precision of ∼ 100 fm, or 4 times the quantum zero-point motion of the mechanical resonator. We found that the measured quadrature is insensitive to back-action driving by at least a factor of 82 relative to the unmeasured quadrature. We also identified a mechanical parametric amplification effect which arises during the BAE measurement. This effect sets limits on the BAE performance but also mechanically preamplifies the motion, resulting in a position resolution 1.3 times the zero-point motion. We discuss how to overcome the experimental limits set by amplifier noise, pump power and parametric amplification. These results serve to define the path forward for demonstrating truly quantum-limited measurement and non-classical states of motion in a nearly-macroscopic object.