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NIST mechanical micro-drum cooled to quantum ground state
Date:7/6/2011

equency. In the case of NIST's superconducting circuit, this stray radiation pressure, as it adjusts to the surrounding environment of the cavity, steadily removes energy from the drum motion in the same way that laser cooling slows atoms in a gas.

In the NIST experiments, the drum is first chilled in a cryogenic refrigerator using liquid helium. This lowers the drum energy to about 30 quanta. Sideband cooling then reduces the drum temperature from 20 milliKelvin (thousandths of a degree above absolute zero) to below 400 microKelvin (millionths of a degree above absolute zero), steadily lowering the drum energy to just one-third of 1 quantum.

Scientists begin the sideband cooling process by applying a drive tone to the circuit at a particular frequency below the cavity resonance. The drumbeats generate sideband photons, which naturally convert to the higher frequency of the cavity. These photons leak out of the cavity as it fills up. Each departing photon takes with it one mechanical unit of energyone phononfrom the drum motion. At a drive intensity that corresponds to 4,000 photons in the cavity, the drum motion slows to less than 1 quantum. By detecting the scattered photons leaving the cavity, scientists can measure the mechanical motion near the lowest possible limits of uncertainty. Collectively, these steps proved that the mechanical drum entered the quantum regime.

The drum apparatus has applications in quantum computers, which could someday solve certain problems that are intractable today, even with the best supercomputers. Quantum information can be stored in the mechanical state for more than 100 microseconds before absorbing one phonon from the environmentmuch longer than conventional superconducting quantum bits can maintain information. The drum, thus, might serve as a short-term memory device in a superconducting quantum computer circuit, a technology under development by the same NIST research group. In
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Contact: Laura Ost
laura.ost@nist.gov
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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