Opto mechanics - Coherent optical levitation

Light carries momentum, so when light hits something, it applies a force. With enough light, it is possible to push objects around. This has been done under microscopes for some years using "optical tweezers" and also in space to push spacecraft around using solar sails. We aim to levitate a mirror that is held up by 3 optical resonators in a tripod configuration. One of the interesting things about this system is that there is no scattering. That is, the levitated mirror will be not be pushed randomly by light that bounces off in all directions, but only by the light that is coherently reflected by the levitated mirror.

Such a levitated system could be used to measure changes in the gravitational force, investigation of quantum opto-mechanical effects and perhaps allow us to build a system that is sensitive to both gravitational and quantum effects, allowing tests of quantum gravity theories.

You can read our original proposal in Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 183001 (2013) and a more general article in The Conversation: "Levitation is just part of the power of pushy light".

Proposed tripod configuration

The proposed optical tripod for levitating a mirror using light

Selected publications

Guccione G, Hosseini M, Adlong S, Johnsson M, Hope J, Buchler B, Lam P
Scattering-free optical levitation of a cavity mirror
Physical Review Letters 111, 18() 1-5
Hosseini M, Guccione G, Slatyer H, Buchler B, Lam P
Multimode laser cooling and ultra-high sensitivity force sensing with nanowires
Nature Communications 5() 4663/1-6