"For some time we have wanted to examine how far you can extend the limits of quantum mechanics does it also apply to macroscopic materials? It would mean entirely new possibilities for what is called optomechanics, which is the interaction between optical radiation, i.e. light, and a mechanical motion," explains Professor Eugene Polzik, head of the Center of Excellence Quantop at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.
But they had to find the right material to work with.
In 2009, Peter Lodahl (who is today a professor and head of the Quantum Photonic research group at the Niels Bohr Institute) gave a lecture at the Niels Bohr Institute, where he showed a special photonic crystal membrane that was made of the semiconducting material gallium arsenide (GaAs). Eugene Polzik immediately thought that this nanomembrane had many advantageous electronic and optical properties and he suggested to Peter Lodahl's group that they use this kind of membrane for experiments with optomechanics. But this required quite specific dimensions and after a year of trying they managed to make a suitable one.
"We managed to produce a nanomembrane that is only 160 nanometers thick and with an area of more than 1 square millimetre. The size is enormous, which no one thought it was possible to produce," explains Assistant Professor Sren Stobbe, who also works at the Niels Bohr Institute.
Basis for new research
Now a foundation had been created for being able to reconcile quantum mechanics with macroscopic materials to explore the optomechanical effects.
Koji Usami explains that in the experiment they shine the laser light onto the nanomembrane in a vacuum chamber. When the laser light hits the semiconductor membrane, some of the light is reflected and the light is reflected back again via a mirror in the experiment so that the light flies back and forth in this space and forms an optical
|Contact: Gertie Skaarup|
University of Copenhagen