Mechanical systems in the quantum regime

Menno Poot, Herre S.J. van der Zant

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

387 Scopus citations


Mechanical systems are ideal candidates for studying quantum behavior of macroscopic objects. To this end, a mechanical resonator has to be cooled to its ground state and its position has to be measured with great accuracy. Currently, various routes to reach these goals are being explored. In this review, we discuss different techniques for sensitive position detection and we give an overview of the cooling techniques that are being employed. The latter includes sideband cooling and active feedback cooling. The basic concepts that are important when measuring on mechanical systems with high accuracy and/or at very low temperatures, such as thermal and quantum noise, linear response theory, and backaction, are explained. From this, the quantum limit on linear position detection is obtained and the sensitivities that have been achieved in recent opto- and nanoelectromechanical experiments are compared to this limit. The mechanical resonators that are used in the experiments range from meter-sized gravitational wave detectors to nanomechanical systems that can only be read out using mesoscopic devices such as single-electron transistors or superconducting quantum interference devices. A special class of nanomechanical systems is bottom-up fabricated carbon-based devices, which have very high frequencies and yet a large zero-point motion, making them ideal for reaching the quantum regime. The mechanics of some of the different mechanical systems at the nanoscale is studied. We conclude this review with an outlook of how state-of-the-art mechanical resonators can be improved to study quantum mechanics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-335
Number of pages63
JournalPhysics Reports
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Active feedback cooling
  • Macroscopic quantum mechanical effects
  • NEMS
  • Nano-electromechanical systems
  • Optomechanics
  • QEMS
  • Quantum-electromechanical systems
  • Quantum-limited displacement detection
  • Sideband cooling


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