LIGHT-MATTER INTERACTION FROM ATOMISTIC RARE-EARTH CENTERS IN SOLIDS TO MASSIVE LEVITATED OBJECTS
A harmonic oscillator is a ubiquitous tool in various disciplines of engineering and physics for sensing and energy transduction. The degrees of freedom, low noise oscillation, and efficient input-output coupling are important metrics when designing sensors and transducers using such oscillators. The ultimate examples of such oscillators are quantum mechanical oscillators coherently transducing information or energy. Atoms are oscillators whose degrees of freedom can be controlled and probed coherently by means of light. Elegant techniques developed during the last few decades have enabled us to use atoms, for example, to build exquisite quantum sensors such as clocks with the precision of <1 second error over the lifetime of the universe, to store and transduce information of various forms and also to develop quantum processors. Similar to atoms, mechanical oscillators can also be controlled ultimately to their single vibrational quanta and be used for similar sensing and transduction applications.
In this thesis, we explore both atomic and mechanical systems and develop a toolbox to build an effective atom-light interface and light-oscillator interface for controlling such atomic and mechanical oscillators and use them in sensing and storage applications. Primarily, we study two disparate platforms: 1) rare-earth ions in solids integrated into photonic chips as a compact and heterogeneous platform and 2) nanoscopic and macroscopic oscillators interfaced with light and magnetic field to isolate them from environmental noise.
Rare earth (RE) ions in crystals have been identified as robust optical centers and promising candidates for quantum communication and transduction applications. Lithium niobate (LN), a novel crystalline host of RE ions, is considered as a viable material for photonic system integration because of its electro-optic and integration capability. This thesis first experimentally reports the activation and characterization of LN crystals implanted with Yb and Er ions and describes their scalable integration with a silicon photonic chip with waveguide and resonator structures. The evanescent coupling of light emitted from Er ions with optical modes of waveguide and microcavity and modified photoluminescence (PL) of Er ions from the integrated on-chip Er:LN-Si-SiN photonic device with quality factor of 104 have been observed at room temperature. This integrated platform can ultimately enable developing quantum memory and provide a path to integrate more photonic components on a single chip for applications in quantum communication and transduction.
Optomechanical systems are also considered as candidates for light storage and sensing. In this thesis, we also present results of the theoretical study of coherent light storage in an array of nanomechanical resonators. The majority of the thesis is focusing on an optomechanical sensing experiment based on levitation. An oscillator well isolated from environmental noise can be used to sense force, inertia, torque, and magnetic field with high sensitivity as the interaction with these quantities can change the amplitude or frequency of the oscillator’s vibration, which can be accurately measured by light. It has been proposed that such levitated macroscopic objects could be used as quantum sensors and transducers at their quantum ground states. They are also proposed as a platform to test fundamental physics such as detecting gravitational waves, observing macroscopic quantum entanglement, verifying the spontaneous collapse models, and searching for dark matter.
In particular, we consider superconducting levitation of macroscopic objects in vacuum whose positions are measured by light. We build an optomechanical platform based on a levitated small high reflective (HR)-coated mirror above a superconductor disk. We use this levitated mirror at ambient conditions to detect the magnetic field with a sensitivity on the order of pT/sqrt(Hz). Moreover, the levitated mirror is used as the end mirror of a Fabry–Pérot cavity to create an optical resonance that could be used to study coherent radiation pressure forces. The platform provides a sensitive tool to measure the various forces exerted on the mirror and it offers the possibility of the coherent optical trapping of macroscopic objects and precision gravity sensing. Moreover, we study the nonlinear dissipation and mode coupling of a levitated HR-coated magnetic mirror above a superconducting disk in vacuum conditions. We observe that by exciting one vibrational mode of the mirror, the vibrational noise of another mode can be significantly suppressed by a factor of 60. We attribute this unique noise suppression mechanism to the mode coupling and nonlinear dissipation caused by the driven magnetic inhomogeneity of the levitated object. Such a suppression mechanism can enable cooling certain modes independent of their detection and position in the spectrum, which may be promising for precision sensing applications.