Nano oscillators synchronized by light

December 17, 2012 by Anne Ju
Nano oscillators synchronized by light
A schematic of two optically coupled, micromechanical oscillators. Each consists of silicon nitride membranes set to a "flapping" oscillation by the force of light. This light force couples the mechanical motion of the oscillators by tunneling through the small gap between them, which eventually leads to their synchronization. Credit: Mian Zhang/Cornell Nanophotonics Group

(—Synchronization phenomena are everywhere in the physical world—from circadian rhythms to side-by-side pendulum clocks coupled mechanically through vibrations in the wall. Researchers have now demonstrated synchronization at the nanoscale, using only light, not mechanics.

Two tiny mechanical oscillators, suspended just nanometers apart, can talk to each other and synchronize by means of nothing but light, according to new research published Dec. 5 in Physical Review Letters.

The work is a collaboration between the research groups of Michal Lipson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Paul McEuen, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics, both members of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science. The study is featured on the journal's cover and as an "editors' suggestion," and the paper's first author is Mian Zhang, a graduate student in the field of applied and .

Lipson's group had previously established that the optical properties of a nanoscale structure can be manipulated with light. Zhang and colleagues took this discovery a step further by demonstrating that two distinct micromechanical oscillators placed in a vacuum, each a hair's width in diameter and spaced 400 nanometers apart, can be synchronized in both phase and frequency through coupling mediated purely by an field.

The researchers demonstrated switching this coupling on and off as well as tuning their frequencies, thanks to established microphotonics techniques that control the optical radiation field, Zhang said.

The robustness of this phenomenon could mean a host of new nanoscale photonic capabilities, say the researchers. For example, they could be used in tuned oscillator networks for sensing, signal processing and nanoscale .

The work was funded in part by the Center for , an Integrative Graduate Education Research and Traineeship, and the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility, all of which are supported by the National Science Foundation.

Explore further: New platform developed to measure and exploit optomechanical interactions

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1 / 5 (1) Dec 24, 2012
Good work. Christian Huygens comes to mind...he observed that two pendulum clocks gradually synchronized their pendulum oscillations, showing "an odd kind of sympathy" as he described it in a letter to the Royal Society in the 1660s. This is believed to be the first investigation of coupled oscillators.

In the 1960s, Art Winfree did extensive work in this field, identifying various specific patterns that emerge in synchronized fields of two oscillators, three oscillators, four oscillators and so on. I hope the Cornell authors will bring their work to the attention of their colleague Steve Strogatz, who started out as a post doc for Winfree. Strogatz wrote Sync. Kuramoto and Mirollo have also made big contributions to this field.

Winfree's work will enable the authors of this article to create more complex patterns, with increased functionality.

By the way...isn't this result pretty much the essence of BCS theory? The light is the phonon; the nano devices the Cooper pair.
1 / 5 (1) Dec 24, 2012
The light is the phonon; the nano devices the Cooper pair.
It's true that membranes are entangled in similar way like the electrons in Cooper pairs, but these membranes aren't embedded in material environment, so that their coupling forces are much weaker and they're not quantized. IMO it's an example of macroscopic entanglement mediated with virtual photons (which are responsible for Casimir force) between silicone nitride plates. The evanescent field of virtual photons was found to propagate in superluminal speed by Gunter Nimtz. It enables both membranes to move in perfect synchrony after number of consecutive synchronizations.

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