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Resolving the vacuum fluctuations of an optomechanical system using an artificial atom



Florent Q. Lecocq, John D. Teufel, Jose A. Aumentado, Raymond W. Simmonds


Heisenberg's uncertainty principle results in one of the strangest quantum behaviours: a mechanical oscillator can never truly be at rest. Even at a temperature of absolute zero, its position and momentum are still subject to quantum fluctuations. However, direct energy detection of the oscillator in its ground state makes it seem motionless, and in linear position measurements detector noise can masquerade as mechanical fluctuations. Thus, how can we resolve quantum fluctuations? Here, we parametrically couple a micromechanical oscillator to a microwave cavity to prepare the system in its quantum ground state and then amplify the remaining vacuum fluctuations into real energy quanta. We monitor the photon/phonon-number distributions using a superconducting qubit, allowing us to resolve the quantum vacuum fluctuations of the macroscopic oscillator's motion. Our results further demonstrate the ability to control a long-lived mechanical oscillator using a non-Gaussian resource, directly enabling applications in quantum information processing and enhanced detection of displacement and forces.
Created June 15, 2015, Updated November 10, 2018