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

Discussion

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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Comments

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.

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Pascale Nouchi's picture

Interesting, preparing for the future

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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
EPFL
Switzerland

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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
Denmark

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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
Germany

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Hong Tang's picture

Are there true applications for cavity optomechanics? I vote yes. One is precision oscillator. Optomechanical oscillators can be easily made shot-noise limited in readout - which is a daunting task for conventional MEMS devices. Such mechanical oscillators could be further coupled to atomic clock for getting the best of two worlds - good long term stability and short term stability. More apparent applications are sensors. There are simply no better ones out there. Other examples include accelerometers, gyroscopes...
H. Tang

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Vittorio Giovannetti's picture

Theoretical studies and huge technological progresses over the last decades made it possible to reach a considerable level of control over quantum states of matter in a large variety of physical systems, ranging from photons, electrons and atoms to bigger solid state systems such as quantum dots and superconducting circuits. This opened the possibility for novel tests of quantum mechanics and allowed, among other things, to take important steps forward in investigating the quantum regime of macroscopic objects. In this perspective, one of the main goals in today quantum science is controlling nano- and micromechanical oscillators at the quantum level. Quantum optomechanics, i.e. studying and engineering the radiation pressure interaction of light with mechanical systems, comes as a powerful and well-developed tool to do so.

V. Giovannetti,
Scuola Normale Superiore
Pisa, Italy

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Lukas Novotny's picture

There's no doubt that nano-optomechanical systems will shape and define our future technologies, ranging from ultrasensitive detection and metrology to quantum information processing. This rapidly growing field also allows us to protrude into yet unexplored territories, such as macroscopic quantum mechanics and its interface to gravity. In the US, larger scale programs, such as MURI or DARPA, are already in the works. In order to stay technologically competitive and to secure key innovations in nano-optomechanics, it is vital for Europe to show a strong commitment in this field.

Lukas Novotny,
ETH Zürich
Switzerland

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Jack Sankey's picture

Optomechanics represents a paradigm shift in how we think about engineering micro- and nanomechanical sensors. Using the forces exerted by (rather modest!) sources laser light we can now modify mechanical properties on the fly and enhance sensor performance to the point where it should be possible to detect infinitesimal forces -- zeptonewtons, or even superposition forces from qubits. These systems naturally imprint this information onto light, and are fully compatible with standard telecom wavelengths for long-distance entanglement and / or secure quantum communication. There is no question this research will find practical applications in existing and future industry. It will impact society.

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Martin Plenio's picture

Optomechanical systems represent fascinating opportunities ranging from the examination of fundamental physics at prviously unachieved levels of detail all the way to the development of new sensing devices for science and industry. The further development of these devices and their deployment may help to unravel clues towards the formulation of new laws of physics at the interface of gravity and quantum mechanics, but may equally well measure more accurately tiny forces and accelerations that may be deployed in applications ranging from geology, autonomous driving, gyroscopes etc. As a consequence I regard the support of the development of this field of considerable importance for Europe.

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Adrian Bachtold's picture

Nano-optomechanical and nano-electromechancial systems will be important for our future technologies. This includes ultrasensitive detection of force and mass, and quantum information processing. The field of Nano-optomechanics and nano-electromechanics is rapidly evolving. The study of strong coupling between light, electrons, and mechanical degrees of freedom is an exciting field that will lead to advances to both fundamental and applied science. A FET call dedicated to this field would be beneficial for the European scientific and technological community.
Adrian Bachtold

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Jan Gieseler's picture

Exquisitely high control over nanomechanical systems has been achieved in recent years including the preparation of a mechanical oscillator in it’s quantum mechanical ground state. This high degree of control opens up the possibility to study very fundamental questions at the boundary of gravity and quantum mechanics but also provides new insights into the thermodynamics of small mesoscopic systems. However, much more effort is still needed to go beyond proof-of-principle experiments and to fully enter a regime where new phenomena emerge. Besides fundamental research, a plethora of applications related to quantum and classical signal processing, transduction and sensing (force, magnetic, mass), which are based on nano-mechanical systems, have been realised and many more applications have been proposed. Still, further efforts are needed to get this technology out of the lab.
Thus, given the variety of nano-mechanical systems an the broad range of physics and applications that can be explored with them, it is no surprise that this field has attracted much interest over the past years. With a strong funding, it will certainly strongly impact both basic science and technology.

Jan Gieseler
ETH Zürich
Switzerland

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Giovanni Andrea Prodi's picture

Experiments on micro and nano opto-electro-mechanical devices strongly coupled to light are opening the possibility of operating in a fully quantum regime both the radiation and the mechanical degrees of freedom. We are at the onset of new opportunities in fundamental physics investigations and applications. As already said by many others, 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.

Giovanni A. Prodi
University of Trento and INFN, Italy

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Alessandro Pitanti's picture

The emerging field of nano-optomechanics is a rare topic in physics. It combines intriguing advancements on understanding fundamental physical concepts with important technological spillovers. The milestone of active cooling of the mechanical motion to the ground state let us now to use quantum mechanics concepts for macroscopic harmonic oscillators; on the very same platform, unrivaled mass/chemical/acceleration/etc. sensors have been fabricated and soon will be integrated in commercial devices.
But this is just the beginning of the story: the pervasive nature of the mechanical coupling makes nano-mechanical oscillators the perfect bridge to create hybrid systems and it is easy to foresee quantum repeaters or qubit-to-photon translator devices based on optomechanical systems.
The society will strongly benefit both from technological advancements and from a deeper and better understanding of modern physical phenomena, as clearly recognized by the funding programs in the USA.
A dedicated FET call would definitively strengthen the European Research Community in the field

Alessandro Pitanti
CNR-NANO & Scuola Normale Superiore
Pisa, Italy

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Francesco Marino's picture

In the recent years, opto-mechanics of micro-and nano-systems has emerged as a research field in strong development, both as a branch of quantum optics (generation of nonclassical states of light, entanglement between light and mirrors, quantum non-demolition measurements...), as well as for possible applications (advanced sensors, gravitational waves detectors, integration into quantum computing). Moreover, the possibility to prepare macroscopic systems close to their fundamental quantum state could enable even more fundamental studies, such as the transition between classical and quantum mechanics and the search of quantum gravitational effects.
These experiments could be realized in the near future, thanks to the recent progresses in the areas of nanotechnology and micro-mechanical systems, and the improved optical quality of micro-mirrors. A dedicated FET proactive call would strengthen the interaction within the European groups working in the field of quantum optomechanics, increasing their specific skills, creating the necessary synergies and interactions between researchers with complementary expertise, and providing the necessary tools for achieving objectives of excellence.

Francesco Marino
CNR-National Institute of Optics, Florence
Italy

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G.massimo Palma's picture

Research in quantum optomechanics is fundamental if we want to go beyond quantum information processing, into the broader field of quantum technologies. The importance of such systems from the viewpoint of the miniaturization and improvement of MEMS and sensors has well been underlined in previous comments and I can only share it. To stress further the importance of specific funding schemes it might be useful to adopt a somehow historic perspective: engineering together mechanical and electrical systems has had a huge technological and economical impact during the industrial revolution. With quantum optomechanical systems we are going several steps ahead in the same direction: we are engineering mechanical and optical systems at the quantum level. Reaching the strong coupling regime and working with hybrid systems we now only begin imagine possible application of such system not only, as said, as sensors but perhaps even more interestingly, as micro engines, whose thermodynamical properties are still to explore.

Massimo Palma
Università di Palermo and CNR - NANO (NEST)

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Paolo Tombesi's picture

The ponderomotive effect of electromagnetic field on matter has a very long history starting back from Kepler and maybe even from the Greeks. Many classical effects during the centuries since then were observed.
In our modern Era materials technology has advanced so much that it is now possible to built mechanical oscillators of microscopic and also nanoscopic size. This permitted in the last 10-15 years the growth of an international community deeply devoted to study the quantum effects of interaction between the electromagnetic field and a piece of material, or a big bunch of atoms, both to test fundamental Physics and technological developments.
European scientists are leaders in the search of such quantum effects.
The real impulse to the growth of interest was due to the challenge of reaching the quantum ground state of a mechanical oscillator with optical or microwave means. In that context a new topic was introduced dubbed Cavity Quantum Opto-Mechanics.
Attending conferences on the topic and seeing so many young scientists presenting with enthusiasm their findings it is extremely joyful. Many experimental achievements have been obtained, not only the reaching of the ground state by optical cooling, but also the generation of squeezed light (ponderomotive squeezing) and the possibility of transferring quantum states onto mechanical oscillators or a bunch of many atoms, not to quote the interesting hybridization of microwave and optical frequencies recently obtained although still at the classical level.
All these results are opening the door to the possibility of using such micro/nano-scopic devices to be implemented in microchips.
Advances in quantum communication, extremely sensitive sensors, accelerometers, quantum computing, and other metrological purposes, will now be the real challenge.
In US there are programs such as DARPA ORCHID, QuASAR and a new MURI, which support this field, instead no dedicated scheme that unites research groups and fosters collaborations within Europe is present.
I think having as FET Proactive Initiative Nano-Opto-Mechanical Technologies, which were identified as one of the 9 Hot Topics by European Commission, would give a great impulse for reaching important goals in Europe.

Paolo Tombesi
University of Camerino

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Fedor Jelezko's picture

I strongly support establishing a European Funding Initiative in the area of “Nano-Optomechanical Technologies”. This field that emerged during last decade will create elements of new technologies in the fields of quantum information processing, sensing. It also will provide new tools for better understanding of fundamental quantum physics topics including coherent control of single atoms and interactions between light and matter. European groups working in this field belong to world leading teams. Creation of dedicated funding in this field will allow establishing strong European Network with added values of collaboration between teams with complementary expertise. In addition such network will allow to bring major players from EU industry into this research field.

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Jack Harris's picture

The ability to study and control quantum effects in massive objects that are strongly interacting with optical and microwave fields represents an incredibly exciting frontier in science and technology. These optomechanical systems have already demonstrated new concepts for reducing quantum noise, producing ultralow temperatures, and realizing detectors and transducers with unprecedented performance. This field lies at a very fertile intersection of optics technology and nanofabrication, and stands to make a major impact across many areas. I strongly support a dedicated FET call on this topics.

Jack Harris
Yale University

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Philipp Treutlein's picture

Nano-optomechanics is a young and fast developing research field. Many applications are foreseen, especially in precision sensing and signal transduction on the level of single quanta. Mechanical systems can be functionalized with electrodes, magnets, mirrors, chemical receptor coatings etc. to enable coupling to a great variety of signals and particles. This unique property of mechanical systems has already driven the development of MEMS into mature industrial devices with many applications in acceleration and mass sensing, atomic force microscopy etc. These devices operate with mechanical oscillators behaving classically and limited by classical noise. The new techniques of nano-optomechanics will push the sensitivity of such devices to the ultimate quantum limits, allow for further miniaturization and integration, and enable conceptually new applications of mechanics in quantum information processing.

The field of nano-optomechanics has grown significantly, and a very active community exists with dedicated conferences, numerous international collaborations and many young researchers joining the field. In the US, there are major funding initiatives supporting this growth. If Europe wants to maintain a leading role in this field, it is crucial to support it with a dedicated FET call on this subject.

Philipp Treutlein
University of Basel
Switzerland

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Nir Shlomo Kampel's picture

The field of optomechanics is blooming, with recent achievements such as reaching the mechanical ground state, working deeply in the radiation pressure dominated region, coupling between microwave and optical fields via mechanics, sensing ultra-low masses (~2e-24g) , and more. These results hints at the vast applications of these systems, from fundamental research to precision measurement and improving the wide spread of NEMS (& MEMS) devices already in everyday use.
One of the unique things about this field is its interdisciplinary collaboration of physicists coming from different fields (gravitational wave, quantum optics, superconducting devices, quantum information, etc.). Supporting reaching in this field, via FET optomechanics, is important for keeping Europe as one of the leading forces of innovation in the field.
Nir Kampel,
JILA, university of Colorado at Boulder.

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Aashish Clerk's picture

Quantum optomechanics represents one of the most exciting directions in modern quantum physics. The field has seen incredible progress in the past ten years, the ability to reach truly quantum regimes of operation is almost routine. The field is also unique in having both the ability to address truly fundamental questions as well as have practical implications. The many benefits of this area of research have been recognized by many other funding agencies (e.g. the large US programs in optomechanics funded by DARPA and the AFOSR). I strongly support a dedicated FET on this topic.

Aashish Clerk
McGill University
Montréal, Canada

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Konrad Lehnert's picture

In modern electronic devices, micromechanical oscillators are ubiquitous signal processing elements. They form superb compact filters and transducers of force and acceleration to electricity. Either by linking their vibrations strongly to optical light or to microwave electricity, these apparently classical devices can exhibit quantum behavior. This recent and exciting result heralds the development of quantum processors or quantum enhanced sensors that exploit the unique properties of mechanical systems. The international community now recognizes the scientific and technological potential of such optomechanical effects, with many new groups beginning research in this area. I strongly encourage an FET dedicated to this topic.

Konrad W. Lehnert
JILA, University of Colorado and NIST
Boulder, Colorado, USA

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Andreas Nunnenkamp's picture

Cavity optomechanics is a rapidly-growing area of research that focuses on the interaction of mechanical motion and electromagnetic (e.g. optical and microwave) degrees of freedom. One central aim of the field is to achieve control of the electromagnetic and mechanical state at the quantum level. This will open up many intriguing avenues of investigation, e.g. thermodynamical engines in the quantum regime, fundamental tests of quantum mechanics and gravity in table-top experiments, but also enable quantum-limited amplification, ultra-sensitive force detection, squeezed light, and single-photon sources.

I believe that cavity optomechanics is an area where funding from an FET Proactive initiative could bear great impact. The field has identified a set of clear goals to focus its attention. At the same time it has brought together a large, diverse group of researchers from quantum optics and quantum information science as well as AMO and condensed-matter physics. Finally, it is an area where European groups are currently among the world-leading ones.

Andreas Nunnenkamp
University of Basel
Switzerland

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Andrew Cleland's picture

Optomechanical systems are one of the most exciting and rapidly developing areas of physics today. Enabling the coupling of distinct quantum fields (electromagnetic, mechanical, electronic, spin), this area has already established a number of unique accomplishments in quantum science, and holds the promise of many more advances in our understanding of the physics of nanoscale and quantum structures. In addition to advances in basic science, research in this area could engender new device modalities for sensing, communication and computation that cannot otherwise be attempted. I strongly support a FET in this area, to accompany similar support in the United States through various funding agencies, including DARPA, ARO, AFOSR and NSF.

Andrew Cleland
University of California, Santa Barbara

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