Optical detection of radio waves through a nanomechanical transducer

TitleOptical detection of radio waves through a nanomechanical transducer
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBagci, T, Simonsen, A, Schmid, S, Villanueva, LG, Zeuthen, E, Appel, J, Taylor, JM, Sørensen, A, Usami, K, Schliesser, A, Polzik, ES
Pages81 - 85
Date Published2014/3/5

Low-loss transmission and sensitive recovery of weak radio-frequency (rf) and microwave signals is an ubiquitous technological challenge, crucial in fields as diverse as radio astronomy, medical imaging, navigation and communication, including those of quantum states. Efficient upconversion of rf-signals to an optical carrier would allow transmitting them via optical fibers dramatically reducing losses, and give access to the mature toolbox of quantum optical techniques, routinely enabling quantum-limited signal detection. Research in the field of cavity optomechanics has shown that nanomechanical oscillators can couple very strongly to either microwave or optical fields. An oscillator accommodating both functionalities would bear great promise as the intermediate platform in a radio-to-optical transduction cascade. Here, we demonstrate such an opto-electro-mechanical transducer utilizing a high-Q nanomembrane. A moderate voltage bias (<10V) is sufficient to induce strong coupling between the voltage fluctuations in a rf resonance circuit and the membrane's displacement, which is simultaneously coupled to light reflected off its metallized surface. The circuit acts as an antenna; the voltage signals it induces are detected as an optical phase shift with quantum-limited sensitivity. The half-wave voltage is in the microvolt range, orders of magnitude below that of standard optical modulators. The noise added by the membrane is suppressed by the electro-mechanical cooperativity C~6800 and has a temperature of 40mK, far below 300K where the entire device is operated. This corresponds to a sensitivity limit as low as 5 pV/Hz^1/2, or -210dBm/Hz in a narrow band around 1 MHz. Our work introduces an entirely new approach to all-optical, ultralow-noise detection of classical electronic signals, and sets the stage for coherent upconversion of low-frequency quantum signals to the optical domain.

Short TitleNature