Levitated Optomechanics

Nick Vamivakas, Mishkat Bhattacharya and Peter Barker

State-of-the-art optical-trapping platforms are creating new opportunities for extending sensing applications and illuminating quantum mechanics. A recent OSA Incubator Meeting explored the frontiers.


figureThe power of optical trapping—evident in efforts such as recent work by YongKeun Park and colleagues, involving using trapped glass beads for control and monitoring of biological cells—could gain new flexibility in levitated optomechanical platforms now coming on stream. [KAIST/Kim et al., Optica 2, 343 (2015)]

The idea that light can cause observable mechanical effects on objects dates back to 1619, when Johannes Kepler first suggested in De Cometis that the deflection of comet tails results from a radiant pressure from the sun. Although notions about how light exerts mechanical forces have evolved since then, especially in the wake of Maxwell’s equations and, later, quantum theory, it wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 1970s that researchers at Bell Laboratories in the United States, led by Arthur Ashkin, and in the Soviet Union, led by Vladilen Letokhov, suggested that optical forces could be used to trap and manipulate neutral atoms. Ashkin in particular, along with other workers, would subsequently investigate numerous implementations of optical trapping, control and manipulation of particles ranging from the 100-nm to 10-μm scale, in liquid, free space and vacuum.

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