Amplitude Sensing below the Zero-Point Fluctuations with a Two-Dimensional Trapped-Ion Mechanical Oscillator
AbstractWe present a technique to measure the amplitude of a center-of-mass (c.m.) motion of a two-dimensional ion crystal of ∼100 ions. By sensing motion at frequencies far from the c.m. resonance frequency, we experimentally determine the technique’s measurement imprecision. We resolve amplitudes as small as 50 pm, 40 times smaller than the c.m. mode zero-point fluctuations. The technique employs a spin-dependent, optical-dipole force to couple the mechanical oscillation to the electron spins of the trapped ions, enabling a measurement of one quadrature of the c.m. motion through a readout of the spin state. We demonstrate sensitivity limits set by spin projection noise and spin decoherence due to off-resonant light scattering. When performed on resonance with the c.m. mode frequency, the technique demonstrated here can enable the detection of extremely weak forces (<1 yN) and electric fields (<1 nV/m), providing an opportunity to probe quantum sensing limits and search for physics beyond the standard model.