Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have discovered a new method for laser cooling semiconductor membranes. Semiconductors are vital components in solar cells, LEDs and many other electronics, and the efficient cooling of components is important for future quantum computers and ultrasensitive sensors. Using lasers, researchers cooled membrane fluctuations to minus 269 degrees C.
Laser cooling of atoms has been practiced for several years in experiments in the quantum optical laboratories of the Quantop research group at the Niels Bohr Institute. Here researchers have cooled gas clouds of cesium atoms down to near absolute zero, minus 273 degrees C, using focused lasers and have created entanglement between two atomic systems. The atomic spin becomes entangled and the two gas clouds have a kind of link, which is due to quantum mechanics. Using quantum optical techniques, they have measured the quantum fluctuations of the atomic spin.
Koji Usami explains that in the experiment they shine the laser light onto the nanomembrane in a vacuum chamber. When the laser light hits the semiconductor membrane, some of the light is reflected and the light is reflected back again via a mirror in the experiment so that the light flies back and forth in this space and forms an optical resonator. Some of the light is absorbed by the membrane and releases free electrons. The electrons decay and thereby heat the membrane and this gives a thermal expansion. In this way the distance between the membrane and the mirror is constantly changed in the form of a fluctuation.