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Nat Nanotechnol. 2009 Dec;4(12):820-3. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2009.343. Epub 2009 Nov 1.

Nanomechanical motion measured with an imprecision below that at the standard quantum limit.

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JILA, National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.


Nanomechanical oscillators are at the heart of ultrasensitive detectors of force, mass and motion. As these detectors progress to even better sensitivity, they will encounter measurement limits imposed by the laws of quantum mechanics. If the imprecision of a measurement of the displacement of an oscillator is pushed below a scale set by the standard quantum limit, the measurement must perturb the motion of the oscillator by an amount larger than that scale. Here we show a displacement measurement with an imprecision below the standard quantum limit scale. We achieve this imprecision by measuring the motion of a nanomechanical oscillator with a nearly shot-noise limited microwave interferometer. As the interferometer is naturally operated at cryogenic temperatures, the thermal motion of the oscillator is minimized, yielding an excellent force detector with a sensitivity of 0.51 aN Hz(-1/2). This measurement is a critical step towards observing quantum behaviour in a mechanical object.

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