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Local probing of propagating acoustic waves in a gigahertz echo chamber

Abstract

In the same way that micro-mechanical resonators resemble guitar strings and drums, surface acoustic waves resemble the sound these instruments produce, but moving over a solid surface rather than through air. In contrast with oscillations in suspended resonators, such propagating mechanical waves have not before been studied near the quantum mechanical limits. Here, we demonstrate local probing of surface acoustic waves with a displacement sensitivity of 30 amRMS Hz−1/2 and detection sensitivity on the single-phonon level after averaging, at a frequency of 932 MHz. Our probe is a piezoelectrically coupled single-electron transistor, which is sufficiently fast, non-destructive and localized to enable us to track pulses echoing back and forth in a long acoustic cavity, self-interfering and ringing the cavity up and down. We project that strong coupling to quantum circuits will enable new experiments, and hybrids using the unique features of surface acoustic waves. Prospects include quantum investigations of phonon–phonon interactions, and acoustic coupling to superconducting qubits for which we present favourable estimates.

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Figure 1: Sample layout.
Figure 2: Response of the SET to SAWs in the steady state.
Figure 3: Dynamic and frequency-dependent response of the SET to SAWs.
Figure 4: Detecting SAW pulses on the single-phonon level.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. W. Lehnert and J. Kinaret for discussions, and T. Claeson for commenting on the manuscript. Financial support by the EU FW6 grant ‘ACDET II’, the European Research Council, the Swedish VR and the Wallenberg foundation is gratefully acknowledged.

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Contributions

M.V.G. did the experimental work, and analysed the data with support from P.D. All authors contributed to the theoretical analysis. P.V.S. contributed expertise about SAWs. P.D. supervised the project. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Martin V. Gustafsson or Per Delsing.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Gustafsson, M., Santos, P., Johansson, G. et al. Local probing of propagating acoustic waves in a gigahertz echo chamber. Nature Phys 8, 338–343 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys2217

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