Research ArticlePHYSICS

A single-atom 3D sub-attonewton force sensor

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Science Advances  23 Mar 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 3, eaao4453
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao4453


Forces drive all physical interactions. High-sensitivity measurement of the effect of forces enables the quantitative investigation of physical phenomena. Laser-cooled trapped atomic ions are a well-controlled quantum system whose low mass, strong Coulomb interaction, and readily detectable fluorescence signal make them a favorable platform for precision metrology. We demonstrate a three-dimensional sub-attonewton sensitivity force sensor based on a super-resolution imaging of a single trapped ion. The force is detected by measuring the ion’s displacement in three dimensions with nanometer precision. Observed sensitivities were 372 ± 9, 347 ± 18, and 808 ± 51 zN/Hz, corresponding to 24×, 87×, and 21× above the quantum limit. We verified this technique by measuring a 95-zN light pressure force, an important systematic effect in optically based sensors.

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