Abstract:
Nano- and micromechanical oscillators with high quality (Q) factors have gained much attention for their potential application as ultrasensitive detectors. In contrast to micro-fabricated devices, optically trapped nanoparticles in vacuum do not suffer from clamping losses, hence leading to much larger Q-factors. We find that for a levitated nanoparticle the thermal energy suffices to drive the motion of the nanoparticle into the nonlinear regime. First, we experimentally measure and fully characterize the frequency fluctuations originating from thermal motion and nonlinearities. Second, we demonstrate that feedback cooling can be used to mitigate these fluctuations. The high level of control allows us to fully exploit the force sensing capabilities of the nanoresonator. Our approach offers a force sensitivity of 20 zN $Hz^{-1/2}$, which is the highest value reported to date at room temperature, sufficient to sense ultra-weak interactions, such as non-Newtonian gravity-like forces.

Abstract:
We study the dynamics of a laser-trapped nanoparticle in high vacuum. Using parametric coupling to an external excitation source, the linewidth of the nanoparticle's oscillation can be reduced by three orders of magnitude. We show that the oscillation of the nanoparticle and the excitation source are synchronized, exhibiting a well-defined phase relationship. Furthermore, the external source can be used to controllably drive the nanoparticle into the nonlinear regime, thereby generating strong coupling between the different translational modes of the nanoparticle. Our work contributes to the understanding of the nonlinear dynamics of levitated nanoparticles in high vacuum and paves the way for studies of pattern formation, chaos, and stochastic resonance.

Abstract:
Laser trapped nanoparticles have been recently used as model systems to study fundamental relations holding far from equilibrium. Here we study, both experimentally and theoretically, a nanoscale silica sphere levitated by a laser in a low density gas. The center of mass motion of the particle is subjected, at the same time, to feedback cooling and a parametric modulation driving the system into a non-equilibrium steady state. Based on the Langevin equation of motion of the particle, we derive an analytical expression for the energy distribution of this steady state showing that the average and variance of the energy distribution can be controlled separately by appropriate choice of the friction, cooling and modulation parameters. Energy distributions determined in computer simulations and measured in a laboratory experiment agree well with the analytical predictions. We analyse the particle motion also in terms of the quadratures and find thermal squeezing depending on the degree of detuning.

Abstract:
Recent experiments have demonstrated the ability to optically cool a macroscopic mechanical oscillator to its quantum ground state by means of dynamic backaction. Such experiments allow quantum mechanics to be tested with mesoscopic objects, and represent an essential step toward quantum optical memories, transducers, and amplifiers. Most oscillators considered so far are rigidly connected to their thermal environment, fundamentally limiting their mechanical Q-factors and requiring cryogenic precooling to liquid helium temperatures. Here we demonstrate parametric feedback cooling of a laser-trapped nanoparticle which is entirely isolated from the thermal bath. The lack of a clamping mechanism provides robust decoupling from internal vibrations and makes it possible to cool the nanoparticle in all degrees of freedom by means of a single laser beam. Compared to laser-trapped microspheres, nanoparticles have the advantage of higher resonance frequencies and lower recoil heating, which are favorable conditions for quantum ground state cooling

Abstract:
Fluctuation theorems are a generalization of thermodynamics on small scales and provide the tools to characterize the fluctuations of thermodynamic quantities in non-equilibrium nanoscale systems. They are particularly important for understanding irreversibility and the second law in fundamental chemical and biological processes that are actively driven, thus operating far from thermal equilibrium. Here, we apply the framework of fluctuation theorems to investigate the important case of a system relaxing from a non-equilibrium state towards equilibrium. Using a vacuum-trapped nanoparticle, we demonstrate experimentally the validity of a fluctuation theorem for the relative entropy change occurring during relaxation from a non-equilibrium steady state. The platform established here allows non-equilibrium fluctuation theorems to be studied experimentally for arbitrary steady states and can be extended to investigate quantum fluctuation theorems as well as systems that do not obey detailed balance.

Abstract:
We present the first evidence of nitrogen vacancy (NV) photoluminescence from a nanodiamond suspended in a free-space optical dipole trap at atmospheric pressure. The photoluminescence rates are shown to decrease with increasing trap laser power, but are inconsistent with a thermal quenching process. For a continuous-wave trap, the neutral charge state (NV$^0$) appears to be suppressed. Chopping the trap laser yields higher total count rates and results in a mixture of both NV$^0$ and the negative charge state (NV$^-$).

Abstract:
Accurate delivery of small targets in high vacuum is a pivotal task in many branches of science and technology. Beyond the different strategies developed for atoms, proteins, macroscopic clusters and pellets, the manipulation of neutral particles over macroscopic distances still poses a formidable challenge. Here we report a novel approach based on a mobile optical trap operated under feedback control that enables long range 3D manipulation of a silica nanoparticle in high vacuum. We apply this technique to load a single nanoparticle into a high-finesse optical cavity through a load-lock vacuum system. We foresee our scheme to benefit the field of optomechanics with levitating nano-objects as well as ultrasensitive detection and monitoring.

Abstract:
We present a semi-analytic approach to solving the Boltzmann equation describing the comptonisation of low frequency input photons by a thermal distribution of electrons in the Thomson limit. Our work is based on the formulation of the problem by Titarchuk & Lyubarskij (ApJ 450 (1995) 876), but extends their treatment by accommodating an arbitrary anisotropy of the source function. To achieve this, we expand the eigenfunctions of the integro/differential eigenvalue problem defining the spectral index of comptonised radiation in terms of Legendre polynomials and Chebyshev polynomials. The resulting algebraic eigenvalue problem is then solved by numerical means, yielding the spectral index and the full angular and spatial dependence of the specific intensity of radiation. For a thin (\tau_0 < 1) plasma disk, the radiation is strongly collimated along the disk surface - for an optical thickness of \tau_0 = 0.05, the radiation intensity along the surface is roughly ten times that along the direction of the normal, and varies only slightly with the electron temperature. Our results for the spectral index confirm those of Titarchuk & Lyubarskij over a wide range of electron temperature and optical depth; the largest difference we find is roughly 10% and occurs at low optical depth.

Abstract:
Numerical results for particle acceleration at multiple oblique shocks are presented. We calculate the steady state spectral slope of test particles accelerated by the first order Fermi process. The results are compared to analytical treatments, for parameters, where the diffusion approximation does apply. Effects of injection and finite shock extend are included phenomenologically. We find the spectrum of accelerated particles to harden substantially at multiple oblique shocks and discuss the influence of the number of shocks compared to the obliquity itself.