Tapered Glass-Fiber Microspike: High-Q Flexural Wave Resonator and Optically Driven Knudsen Pump

10.01.2017, 11:42

R. Pennetta, S. Xie, and P. St.J. Russell, Physical Review Letters 117, 273901 (2016)

Appropriately designed optomechanical devices are ideal for making ultra-sensitive measurements. Here we report a fused-silica microspike that supports a flexural resonance with a quality factor greater than 100 000 at room temperature in vacuum. Fashioned by tapering single-mode fiber (SMF), it is designed so that the core-guided optical mode in the SMF evolves adiabatically into the fundamental mode of the air-glass waveguide at the tip. The very narrow mechanical linewidth (20 mHz) makes it possible to measure extremely small changes in resonant frequency. In a vacuum chamber at low pressure, the weak optical absorption of the glass is sufficient to create a temperature gradient along the microspike, which causes it to act as a microscopic Knudsen pump, driving a flow of gas molecules towards the tip where the temperature is highest. The result is a circulating molecular flow within the chamber. Momentum exchange between the vibrating microspike and the flowing molecules causes an additional restoring force that can be measured as a tiny shift in the resonant frequency. The effect is strongest when the mean free path of the gas molecules is comparable with the dimensions of the vacuum chamber. The system offers a novel means of monitoring the behavior of weakly absorbing optomechanical sensors operating in vacuum.