Ryan D. Schilling

Ryan Schilling
Early Stage Researcher

Academic background

2012 October – present: PhD in Electrical Engineering. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.

– topic: Quantum limited sensing of nanomechanical motion in an integrated optomechanical system

– supervisor: Prof. Tobias Kippenberg (Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements)

2010-2012: Master of Science in Electrical Engineering. University of Toronto, Canada.

– thesis: Self-referencing and sensitivity optimization in photonic crystal slabs for biosensing applications

– supervisor: Prof. Ofer Levi

2006-2010: Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. University of British Columbia, Canada.

2010 Summer: NSERC Undergraduate Summer Research Award, Microsystems and Nanotechnology Group. University of British Columbia, Canada.

2009 Summer: NSERC Undergraduate Summer Research Award, Robotics and Control Laboratory. University of British Columbia, Canada.


Current research topic (PhD): Quantum limited sensing of nanomechanical motion in an integrated optomechanical system

Nano and micromechanical oscillators are currently used in many commercial applications, ranging from atomic force microscopy to radio frequency filters in cell-phones. Such systems have also been used for very high precision metrology, such as the detection of single spins, and reconstructing virus structure. Recently, it has been demonstrated that such mechanical oscillators can be parametrically coupled to an optical cavity by placing the oscillator in the near-field of the cavity. Such a device is an example of an optomechanical system, where mechanical motion interacts with, and can be controlled by, an electromagnetic field.

The field of cavity optomechanics seeks to create powerful new tools for the exploration of phenomenon in the quantum regime, by coupling the optical mode of an optical cavity to the mechanical mode of a mechanical oscillator. Such systems can be used both for high precision metrology as well as to test fundamental concepts in quantum mechanics. It has been recently demonstrated that macroscopic optomechanical systems operating at cryogenic temperature can realize mechanical coupling rates that exceed the systems thermal decoherence rate. In this regime, a system can in principle be operated in the quantum ground state. This would allow for the realization of experiments where quantum states can be prepared, manipulated, and read out.

The thesis work introduced in this report seeks to realize a hybrid, on-chip integrated optomechanical platform that will overcome the shortcoming of current systems. The system is hybrid in the sense that it integrates a silicon nitride doubly clamped nanobeam with a silicon dioxide microdisk whispering gallery mode optical cavity. Silicon nitride nanobeams represent the state of the art in ultra-high quality factor nanomechanical resonators, and the research behind such systems is well established. Likewise, silicon dioxide microdisk cavities represent the highest finesse resonators that are amenable to on-chip fabrication. These two physically separate systems can be coupled by the optical gradient force. Traditionally, optomechanical systems have relied on coupling to the mechanical modes of the optical resonator itself, which generally resulted in low mechanical Qs. The hybrid approach, where the mechanical and optical systems are physically separate, is highly desirable as it does not require such compromises in performance. Moreover, from an engineering point of view, this physical separation allows for independent tuning and optimization of the mechanical and optical components.

Hybrid, near-field optomechanics has been explored extensively within the research group of Prof. Tobias Kippenberg – first by Dr. Georg Anetsberger, and later by Dr. Emanuel Gavartin. The work of this thesis builds upon this strong knowledge base, and follows directly from the work of Dr. Gavartin.