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The Atomic Point Contact as a Detector of Nanomechanical Motion

TitleThe Atomic Point Contact as a Detector of Nanomechanical Motion
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsFlowers-Jacobs, NE

I experimentally demonstrate that an atomic point contact (APC) is a sensitive detector of nanomechanical motion. With a microwave technique, I increase the measurement speed of APCs by a factor of 500. This measurement is fast enough to detect the resonant motion of nanomechanical structures at frequencies up to 150 MHz. I measure displacement with a shot-noise limited imprecision of √Sx = 0:29 fm/√Hz and simultaneously observe a √SF = 61 aN/√Hz backaction force. A quantum limited detector would operate at the limit imposed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, √SxSF ≥ ħ; for this APC detector√SxSF = 168ħ. Because the measurement noise is dominated by the shot noise of tunneling electrons, the non-ideality of the APC detector is likely due to a backaction force in excess of that required by quantum mechanics. Although I cannot unambiguously determine the origin of this excess backaction force, I am able to eliminate certain possible origins. For example, the observed linear dependence of the backaction force SF on APC current is inconsistent with a noisy electrostatic attraction mediated by the mutual capacitance between the APC electrodes. In contrast, a model of the backaction force that invokes a momentum impulse delivered by each tunneling electron correctly accounts for the observed scaling. However, each electron would have to deliver a momentum impulse greater than 20 times the Fermi momentum which seems implausibly large. I also observe the signs of molecular vibrations in the APC using inelastic electron tunneling spectroscopy. At the bias energy associated with vibrations I measure a resonant increase in the backaction force. This observation suggests that the excess backaction may arise from the interaction of tunneling electrons and molecular vibrations.