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Radiation-pressure cooling and optomechanical instability of a micromirror


Recent table-top optical interferometry experiments1,2 and advances in gravitational-wave detectors3 have demonstrated the capability of optical interferometry to detect displacements with high sensitivity. Operation at higher powers will be crucial for further sensitivity enhancement, but dynamical effects caused by radiation pressure on the interferometer mirrors must be taken into account, and the appearance of optomechanical instabilities may jeopardize the stable operation of the next generation of interferometers4,5,6. These instabilities7,8 are the result of a nonlinear coupling between the motion of the mirrors and the optical field, which modifies the effective dynamics of the mirror. Such ‘optical spring’ effects have already been demonstrated for the mechanical damping of an electromagnetic waveguide with a moving wall9, the resonance frequency of a specially designed flexure oscillator10, and the optomechanical instability of a silica microtoroidal resonator11. Here we present an experiment where a micromechanical resonator is used as a mirror in a very high-finesse optical cavity, and its displacements are monitored with unprecedented sensitivity. By detuning the laser frequency with respect to the cavity resonance, we have observed a drastic cooling of the microresonator by intracavity radiation pressure, down to an effective temperature of 10 kelvin. For opposite detuning, efficient heating is observed, as well as a radiation-pressure-induced instability of the resonator. Further experimental progress and cryogenic operation may lead to the experimental observation of the quantum ground state of a micromechanical resonator12,13,14, either by passive15 or active cooling techniques16,17,18.

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Figure 1: Principle of radiation-pressure cooling.
Figure 2: Experimental set-up used to monitor and to cool the micromechanical oscillator.
Figure 3: Thermal noise spectra, normalized as microresonator displacements.
Figure 4: Evolution of the cavity cooling and heating effects with respect to the detuning ϕ.


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We are grateful to L. Rousseau for the fabrication of the microresonator and to J.-M. Mackowski and his group for the optical coating of the resonator. This work was partially funded by EGO (collaboration convention for a study of quantum noises in gravitational-wave interferometers). Laboratoire Kastler Brossel is a research unit of Ecole Normale Supérieure and Université Paris 6, associated with CNRS.

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Correspondence to P.-F. Cohadon.

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Arcizet, O., Cohadon, PF., Briant, T. et al. Radiation-pressure cooling and optomechanical instability of a micromirror. Nature 444, 71–74 (2006).

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