Bench-top experimental tests of gravitation in quantum systems

The territory where quantum mechanics has to be reconciled with gravitation is still experimentally unexplored. Gravitational effects in quantum systems are typically small, making laboratory-scale experiments extremely challenging. Advances in mechanical resonators at the micro-scale and cryogenic temperatures are beginning to bring such experiments within reach. We plan to evaluate the feasibility of bench-top experiments based on two micromechanical oscillators to explore the effect of gravity in quantum systems. 

Heating of mechanical resonators is expected from gravitational decoherence. To determine whether this heating effect can be measured, we will build the world’s most sensitive calorimeter based on an optomechanical system at cryogenic temperatures. The optomechanical system will consist of a mechanical oscillator inside a 3D microwave cavity, whose interaction will allow for measurement of the mechanical oscillator’s temperature. The microwave cavity is fabricated from an aluminium block and the mechanical resonators are commercially available silicon nitride membranes with excellent mechanical properties. 

This is an ambitious project with the goal of elucidating whether quantum gravitational effects can arise in table-top experiments, opening up the possibility for a whole new direction for the quest of quantum gravitational effects. 

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