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MODULAR Report Summary

Project ID: 677548
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MODULAR (Modular mechanical-atomic quantum systems)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2017-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Mechanical oscillators are widely used as force or acceleration sensors and signal transducers, with applications ranging from atomic force microscopy and gravitational wave detection to consumer electronics. In today’s devices, the vibrations of these oscillators are governed by classical physics and the readout sensitivity is limited by thermal noise. To reach the quantum limits of operation in such devices will likely have a strong impact on technology, enabling sensors with improved precision as well as conceptually new quantum technology.

In this project, we explore the new conceptual and experimental possibilities offered by hybrid systems in which the vibrations of a mechanical oscillator are coupled to an ensemble of ultracold atoms. The coupling will be realized in a modular way by connecting the two systems with laser light. The coupled mechanical-atomic system will be used for a range of experiments on quantum control and quantum metrology of mechanical vibrations. Besides the interesting perspective of observing quantum phenomena in engineered mechanical devices that are visible to the bare eye, the project will open up new avenues for quantum measurement of mechanical vibrations with potential impact on the development of mechanical quantum sensors and transducers for accelerations, forces and fields.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The project started by building the experimental setup for the planned experiments. This included building a new membrane optomechanics setup in a cryostat and the further development of an ultracold atom setup. In parallel, theoretical investigations were carried out to develop a fully quantum mechanical description of the light-mediated atom-membrane coupling. While the cryogenic setup was being assembled, experiments on atom-membrane coupling were carried out at room temperature. At large coupling strengths, light-mediated collective motion of atoms in the optical lattice was observed. Such collective optomechanical phenomena currently receive great scientific interest. They were observed here for the first time with atoms in a free-space optical lattice, without placing the atoms in an optical cavity.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The successful implementation of the project will establish a new approach to quantum control of mechanical vibrations, with features and functionality that have not been achieved in purely optomechanical systems. It will lead to new insights into remote control of quantum systems with light and quantum metrology. Exploring the fundamental limits of control and measurement imposed on us by nature has important conceptual, philosophical and technological implications. The project will have a significant impact on the development of quantum metrology with mechanical quantum sensors, whose classical counterparts already find widespread use as sensors for accelerations, forces and fields.

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