Ultra-sensitive force sensing with a levitating nanoparticle

Nov 25, 2013
This is a silica nanoparticle trapped by tightly focused laser beams. Credit: ICFO

A recent study led by researchers of the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) achieved the highest force sensitivity ever observed with a nano-mechanical resonator. The scientific results of this study have been published in Nature Physics.

Nano- and micromechanical oscillators with high quality (Q) factors have gained much attention for their potential application in sensing, signal processing and transduction as well as in fundamental research aiming at observing quantum effects in increasingly larger systems. Despite recent advances in the design and fabrication of mechanical resonators, their Q-factor has so far been limited by coupling to the environment through physical contact to a support. To overcome this limitation, the present work proposes to use optically levitated objects in vacuum that do not suffer from clamping losses.

In this recent ICFO study, scientists have optically levitated in high vacuum conditions and measured the highest Q-factor ever observed in nano- or . The combination of an ultra-high Q-factor together with the tiny mass of the nanoparticles leads to an unprecedented force sensitivity at room temperature. The system is so sensitive that the weak forces arising from collisions between the nanoparticle and the residual air molecules are enough to drive it into the nonlinear regime. For the first time, this study demonstrates that ultra-high Q-factor nano-resonators intrinsically behave nonlinearly. In addition, the researchers show that, when combined with feedback cooling, the levitating nanoparticle can be used as a force-sensor, sufficiently sensitive to detect ultra-weak interactions, such as non-Newtonian gravity-like forces and tiny forces arising from quantum vacuum fluctuations.

Gieseler remarks that "Thermal motion is commonly observed in nano-mechanical systems. However, observing nonlinear features of thermal motion is a true novelty and, thus, challenges our understanding of how these high-Q nano-mechanical systems behave."

The advent of this new class of nano-mechanical oscillators will open new avenues for ultrasensitive force sensing and benefit the experimental investigation of quantum physics.

This discovery has been possible thanks to the collaboration between the Plasmon Nano-optics group led by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Romain Quidant and the Nano-Photonics group led by Prof. Lukas Novotny, from the Photonics Laboratory (ETH Zurich), as well as the support from the Fundació Cellex Barcelona through its Nest program.

Explore further: Tiny magnetic sensor deemed attractive

More information: Jan Gieseler, Lukas Novotny & Romain Quidant, Thermal nonlinearities in a nanomechanical oscillator, Nature Physics (2013), DOI: 10.1038/nphys2798

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

An optical switch based on a single nano-diamond

Oct 15, 2013

A recent study led by researchers of the ICFO (Institute of Photonic Sciences) demonstrates that a single nano-diamond can be operated as an ultrafast single-emitter optical switch operating at room temperature. ...

Exotic behavior when mechanical devices reach the nanoscale

May 15, 2011

Most mechanical resonators damp (slow down) in a well-understood linear manner, but ground-breaking work by Prof. Adrian Bachtold and his research group at the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology has shown that resonators ...

Revisiting quantum effects in MEMS

Nov 15, 2013

New calculations shows that the influence of quantum effects on the operating conditions of nanodevices has, until now, been overestimated.

Recommended for you

Tiny magnetic sensor deemed attractive

8 hours ago

Ultra-sensitive magnetic sensor technology pioneered at PML may soon be commercialized for a host of applications from detection of unexploded bombs and underground pipes to geophysical surveying and perhaps ...

Beams come knocking on the LHC's door

8 hours ago

Over the weekend, proton beams came knocking on the Large Hadron Collider's (LHC) door. Shooting from the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) and into the two LHC injection lines, the proton beams were stopped ...

Climate control in termite mounds

10 hours ago

When they make their way into homes, some species of termites can be destructive pests. Their fungus-harvesting relatives in Africa and Asia, however, are known for their construction prowess, collectively ...

The secret of dragonflies' flight

11 hours ago

Dragonflies can easily right themselves and maneuver tight turns while flying. Each of their four wings is controlled by separate muscles, giving them exquisite control over their flight.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.