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A Quantum Leap in Sensing Technology

Credit: J. Adam Fenster and Prof. A. N. Vamivakas, University of Rochester

Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) have developed a new type of sensing technology. This new technology is capable of more precisely capturing data. Scientists are hoping this innovation will lead the way to lighter, smaller, less expensive sensory devices.

This sensing technology comes as part of a three-year study for the US Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research. The study is devoted to researching new precision quantum sensing solutions, as well as the interaction between light and dark matter at the nanoscale. Scientists are also analyzing measurements of gravitational forces and weak electromagnetic fields.

A large part of this research revolves around levitated optomechanics. Levitated optomechanics studies nanoparticles by trapping them in a laser beam. This method of laser trapping is called “optical tweezers” and is used to test the limits of certain quantum effects in isolation. The method has the additional benefit of eliminating physical disturbances that could impede the testing and interfere with the results.

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Laser trapping was used in this experiment to study quantum effects in the nanoparticles. Researchers used the technique to isolate a nanodiamond in a pocket of light. The particle was then turned into a floating probe by suspending it in laser light. The end result was that scientists were able to determine the smallest force that could be detected with a diamond crystal that levitated without spinning.

“Levitated optomechanical systems provide a clean platform for studying quantum optics, information science, and precision measurement and sensing.

Mishkat Bhattacharya, an associate professor in RIT’s School of Physics and Astronomy and a member of the Future Photon Initiative.

This is an exciting discovery with regards to sensing technology. By exploring the interactions between light and tiny matter particles within the nano-realm, scientists can make advances on the submicroscopic scale. This will allow for finer, more comprehensive measurements of physical properties to be achieved. This technology could conceivably have a huge range of applications, from working on ways to find dark matter to improving the way display screens automatically adjust themselves at any angle. With further work in the field of optomechanics, a whole new realm of sensor devices could be right at our fingertips.

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