Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Nano-optomechanical technologies – how to exploit light-matter interactions at the nanoscale?


The various interactions between light and the dynamical (oscillatory) states of matter are beginning to be understood, for instance from research in cavity optodynamics, and have been delivering a lot of basic science results, both in the classical and in the quantum regime (e.g. for realising a quantum ground state through optomechanical cooling). This initiatives asks the question what we can do with all this? What are the technological implications of all this? How can this lead to anything practical?

What are we looking for?
•    What should be the orientation of research on this topic? As stated, do you feel it is too broad or, on the contrary, too narrow?
•    Have any recent scientific results been obtained relevant to this topic? Is there already a well-established community on this?
•    Do you know of related initiatives, for instance at national level, or in other continents?
•    What is needed at this point to advance this? More exploration of different ideas? More coordination among groups or related initiatives? A strong push for a precise technological target and, if so, which one? Anything else?

Background: Following the last FET consultation during 2012-13, 9 topics were identified as candidates for a FET Proactive. This topic has not been selected for inclusion in the FET Work Programme for 2014-15. Comments are invited on whether this topic is still relevant, or if any changes would be necessary to take account of recent research results. We are also trying to understand better how to advance these areas.

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34 users have voted.


Luis Plaja's picture

I drive your attention to the emerging field of attoscience. Ultrashort light pulses has now croseed the barrier of the femtosecond. Than means that we have access to the observation and control of atomic an molecular processes in their natural time scale. Europe has a leading role in this field but, to my opninion, a stronger push should be given by identifying this field as a key emerging technology.

8 users have voted.
Pascale Nouchi's picture

Interesting, preparing for the future

5 users have voted.
Michele Bonaldi's picture

The availability of macroscopic systems in the quantum regime (or at the transition between classical to quantum) could allow tests of thermodynamics effect of quantum features, such as coherence, squeezing and entanglement. Any experimental measurement on this topic would be of great benefit to future ideas and developments. Note that it has been predicted that single atom nanoengines based on quantum squeezed states can perform more efficiently than classical engines.

To set up thermodynamical measurements with an optomechanical cavity we have to get rid of many sources of technical noise, to obtain a system mainly driven by thermal and quantum noise. This poses a number of technical problems (among the others: physical cooling of the devices, control of vibrational noise, stability of the mechanical parameters) that must be solved with new designs of optomechanical devices and cavity assemblies.

20 users have voted.
David Vitali's picture

Micro- and nano-(opto)-electro-mechanical devices, are already used in many technological applications: high-sensitive sensors (accelerometers, atomic force microscopes, mass sensors….) actuators (in printers, electronic devices…). Nonetheless the field has undergone an impressive progress in less than 10 years, refreshing, and in some cases revolutionizing, old concepts and views in our understanding of mechanical properties of materials at the nanoscale, and in the ultimate limits for the detection of displacements, forces, masses.
There are both technological and conceptual reasons for such a progress. From the technological point of view, nano- and micro-fabrication techniques are facing a continuous improvement and a huge variety of opto-mechanical and electro-mechanical devices has been recently fabricated and tested. The progress in the control and reduction of mechanical dissipation is particularly impressive.
Form a conceptual point of view a wider and wider scientific community is realizing the opportunities opened by the possibility to operate these devices in a fully quantum regime for both the radiation and the mechanical components. In fact, current standard MEMS devices operate in the classical regime for both the electromagnetic field and the motional degree of freedom.
A second important element is the advantages of confining the electromagnetic radiation in cavities, allowing a much stronger parameter control and a stronger, tunable optomechanical coupling.
There is already a wide and well-established community working in this research field, with workshops and conferences held every year. The community involved has just the right size (neither too big or too small) for a dedicated FET proactive call. This is witnessed by the fact that two specific initiatives have been funded, and a new one is just starting, in the USA. Because of that Europe, which has been the kick-starter of the field, is seriously risking to fall behind USA.
A FET call dedicated to this field would allow the European scientific and technological community to afford in a proper way the many open challenges of the field. The recent achievement of ground state cooling of a nanogram-scale mechanical resonator, the demonstrated ability to generate and control squeezed light at the output of the device are only first demonstrations of the enormous potential of the field.
Mechanical resonators can be coupled in a tunable and controllable manner to any degree of freedom and therefore represent the ideal interface, which can be integrated in any device, either at the classical and quantum level. Spins, light, superconducting devices, electrical currents, atomic systems are the most immediate examples, and considerable research work is still to be done to envisage what can be gained by adding controllable mechanical degrees of freedom in integrated optoeclectronic devices.

David Vitali, Camerino, Italy

26 users have voted.
Eugene Polzik's picture

The field has been growing explosively in the US, Europe and elsewhere. It takes advantage of both conceptual breakthroughs and in progress in nano- and microfabrication. This progress made extremely high-Q mechanical resonators, such as dielectric and semiconductor membranes, strings and toroids accessible to researchers. With these devices at hand, researchers have already demonstrated strong electro-mechanical and opto-mechanical coupling which enables a new level of performance.
Conceptual breakthroughs include the possibility of measuring acceleration, forces and e.-m. fields with sensitivity beating standard quantum limits. Novel applications in sensing and amplifying extremely weak radio- and micro-wave signals can be foreseen.
In the US these directions of research are supported, among others, by the Defence Advanced Research Agency and the Army Research Agency.
Europe needs a targeted funding to bring the research in nano-opto-electromechanics to a new level of innovation.
Eugene Polzik
Niels Bohr Institute
Copenhagen University

22 users have voted.
Mika Oksanen's picture

The field of optomechanics studies the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and nano- or micromechanical motion. This conceptually simple platform of coupling optical cavities with micromechanical resonators yields incredibly rich physical phenomena, which on one hand include highly sensitive optical detection of mechanical motion, mass, or forces, and on the other hand gives rise to the possibility to manipulate and detect single quanta of mechanical motion. Rapid progress in the recent years holds promise for using optomechanical systems as coherent interfaces between light and matter. All these features combined form the toolbox for quantum information processing, where for example the solid state qubits could be coupled to photonic qubits for long range quantum computing.

Mika Oksanen, Aalto University, Finland.

12 users have voted.
Fabio Pistolesi's picture

The field of Nano-optomechanics and nano-electromechanics is rapidly evolving in the last 15 years. The ground state cooling recently achieved opens the way to quantum manipulations of mechanical systems and to the perspective of employing mechanical devices as frequency conversion and quantum buses. From the experimental and theoretical point of view the investigation of quantum limited detection, quantum syncronization, and in general the study of strong coupling between light, electrons, and mechanical degrees of freedom is an open field that will lead to advances to both fundamental and applied science.
It is very important that also in Europe a strong funding policy is put forward to support this highly competitive field.

Fabio Pistolesi
CNRS and Univ. Bordeaux
Bordeux, France

14 users have voted.
Luis Guillermo Villanueva's picture

For more than 30 years, Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) have been continuously developing along micro- and nano-fabrication techniques, also aligned with the development of CMOS technologies. This evolution of MEMS has led into their broad commercialization (now we can find MEMS in every handheld device) and into Nano Electro Mechanical Systems (NEMS) still in the academic environment. The common denominator to all the aforementioned devices is the fact that the transduction (actuation and detection) is electrically-based.
In parallel, over the last 15 years, the field of optomechanics has been receiving a lot of attention and incredible achievements have been made. This has happened both in the classical mechanical regime, but always trying to reach the quantum regime in order to exploit the particularities of quantum mechanics to increase the sensing potential of the systems.
Considering also the ever-growing field of integrated on-chip optics, it is now the moment to consider the potential for cavity optomechanical systems with integrated on-chip elements. Making use of state-of-the-art nanofabrication facilities it is possible to generate optical and mechanical cavities with enormous optomechanical couplings and cooperativities. If, in addition, we are able to integrate the rest of the optical components, it would be possible to achieve compact systems to be deployed in handheld devices, surpassing by several order of magnitude the current state-of-the-art sensors.

Guillermo Villanueva

12 users have voted.
Aurelien Dantan's picture

Lying in the intersection between optical technologies and electronics, optomechanical systems combine the advantages of electronic signalling and semiconductor technology with the fascinating properties of light as a communications resource. In the last decade progress in the manufacture of high-quality micro- and nano-fabricated mechanical resonators has enabled the control of their motion with outstanding precision, even down to the quantum level. Such developments have the potential to take mechanical systems beyond current MEMS/NEMS systems applications in ICT and apply them to routing and switching of optical signals, to enhanced sensing and transduction, as well as to quantum-enabled processing. The potential of optomechanics as a FET has been acknowledged in the US, with several large initiatives funded recently. Similar initiatives are imperative in Europe, which gathers many of the leading groups in the field, in order to strengthen the community and support the research effort in this direction.

Aurelien Dantan
Aarhus University

10 users have voted.
Ondrej Cernotik's picture

With the whole field of quantum information science turning its attention to hybrid system for information processing, optomechanics can play an important role in mediating interactions between completely different systems. Thanks to strong coupling of nanomechanical oscillators to both optical and microwave fields, one can achieve conversions between vastly different frequencies of the electromagnetic radiation. This allows effective coupling of superconducting systems (promising candidates for stationary qubits in quantum computers) to light (the only medium that can really be used for flying qubits), making optomechanical systems crucial for future quantum information processing technologies.

Secondly, optomechanical systems can be suitable also for probing the quantum-to-classical transition due to the possibility to create coherent quantum superpositions of large mechanical oscillators (such as large mirrors in current gravitational wave detectors). While this research direction does not have any direct practical applications, it could help us in understanding the fundementals of quantum mechanics.

Ondrej Cernotik
Leibniz University Hannover

9 users have voted.
Group managers
Aymard DE TOUZALIN European Commission Future and Emerging Technology Unit Deputy Head of Unit
Walter VAN DE VELDE European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies Scientific Officer and FET Strategy
Beatrice MARQUEZ-GARRIDO European Commission Future & Emerging Technologies Unit Project Officer
Group Participants