New Phonon Laser Could Be Applied to Investigation of Quantum Physics

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A phonon laser based on the optical tweezing technique invented by Nobel Prize recipient Arthur Ashkin was developed by researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the University of Rochester. The researchers demonstrated a mesoscopic, frequency-tunable phonon laser based on the center-of-mass oscillation of a silica nanosphere levitated in an optical tweezer under vacuum. The phonon laser can be used on single electrons, liquid droplets, and even on small biological organisms.

In a standard optical laser, the properties of the light output are controlled by the material from which the laser is made. In this phonon laser, the motion of the material particle is governed by the optical feedback.

New phonon laser, RIT and University of Rochester.
Researchers from RIT and the University of Rochester proposed and demonstrated a phonon laser using an optically levitated nanoparticle. Courtesy of A. Nick Vamivakas and Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester illustration.

This phonon laser could provide a pathway for a coherent source of phonons on the mesoscale that could be applied to fundamental problems in quantum mechanics as well as precision metrology applications.

“We are very excited to see what the uses of this device are going to be — especially for sensing and information processing, given that the optical laser has so many, and still evolving, applications," said professor Mishkat Bhattacharya, who is also interested in using the device to explore fundamental quantum physics. 

The research was published in Nature Photonics ( 

Published: April 2019
optical tweezers
Optical tweezers refer to a scientific instrument that uses the pressure of laser light to trap and manipulate microscopic objects, such as particles or biological cells, in three dimensions. This technique relies on the momentum transfer of photons from the laser beam to the trapped objects, creating a stable trapping potential. Optical tweezers are widely used in physics, biology, and nanotechnology for studying and manipulating tiny structures at the microscale and nanoscale levels. Key...
The term quantum refers to the fundamental unit or discrete amount of a physical quantity involved in interactions at the atomic and subatomic scales. It originates from quantum theory, a branch of physics that emerged in the early 20th century to explain phenomena observed on very small scales, where classical physics fails to provide accurate explanations. In the context of quantum theory, several key concepts are associated with the term quantum: Quantum mechanics: This is the branch of...
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