In cavity optomechanics the state of a mechanical element can be manipulated by interfacing it with light via radiation pressure, electrostriction, or related phenomena. The majority of mechanical elements employed in optomechanical systems to date are solid objects (membranes, nanowires, mirrors, etc); however fluids can also be used as a mechanical element. Compared to solids, fluids have an advantage: they readily achieve precise alignment with the optical cavity, as the fluid can conformally fill or coat the optical cavity. However, almost all optomechanical systems need to be cooled to sub-Kelvin temperatures in order for quantum effects to be observed. Liquid helium is the only fluid that doesn't solidify under its own pressure at these temperatures. Additionally, helium has almost no optical absorption, high thermal conductivity and very low acoustic loss at cryogenic temperatures. We have developed an optomechanical system in which the mechanical mode is a standing density wave in superfluid helium inside a 70 μm long Fabry-Perot cavity. The optical mode is also a mode of the same cavity. Thus, the system is completely self-aligned. In this system, we used electrostriction to drive the mechanical mode with light by modulating the optical intensity. We also observed the mode's undriven Brownian motion and from that extracted it mean phonon number. We measured phonon number as low as nac=11. The optomechanical effects of optical spring and optical damping were observed, and agreed well with the predictions of conventional optomechanical theory.
A. D. Kashkanova, A. B. Shkarin, C. D. Brown, N. E. Flowers-Jacobs, L. Childress, S. W. Hoch, L. Hohmann, K. Ott, S. Garcia, J. Reichel, and J. G. E. Harris, "Observation of thermal fluctuations in a superfluid optomechanical system," Proc. SPIE 10116, MOEMS and Miniaturized Systems XVI, 101160Q (Presented at SPIE OPTO: February 01, 2017; Published: 20 February 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2252356.
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