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Nano- and Optomechanics

Module PH2255

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of WS 2020/1 (current)

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

Whether the module’s courses are offered during a specific semester is listed in the section Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature below.

available module versions
WS 2020/1WS 2019/20WS 2018/9WS 2017/8

Basic Information

PH2255 is a semester module in English language at which is offered in winter semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Specific catalogue of special courses for Applied and Engineering Physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for condensed matter physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for nuclear, particle, and astrophysics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for Biophysics

If not stated otherwise for export to a non-physics program the student workload is given in the following table.

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
150 h 60 h 5 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2255 is Menno Poot.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


Nano- and optomechanics is a rapidly developing field where mechanical resonators - ranging from the nanoscale to km-sized gravitational-wave detectors - are studied with extremely sensitive methods. In this module we will study some of the most intriguing aspects of this topic, including mechanics at the nanoscale, NEMS sensors, synchronization, and quantum-limited measurements. The module consists of a lecture and exercises and will be given in English.

This semester the Nano- and Optomechanics course will be given in a hybrid format: in-presence and streaming via Zoom. Depending on the preference of the participating students and the developments of the pandemic, this may be adapted to achieve the learning outcomes in the best way.

Learning Outcome

After successful participation in the module, the student is able to:

  • Name different designs of mechanical resonators, and of NEMS and optomechanical detectors. Tell what their main pros and cons are.
  • Illustrate the difference between bottom-up and top-down devices.
  • Recall the optomechanical Hamiltonian and the derivation of its limiting cases. Evaluate the outcome with different quantum mechanical states.
  • Classify different damping mechanism in mechanical devices and relate this to force noise and temperature.
  • Select the right material(s) for a resonator+detector design, based on an understanding of the fabrication techniques and material properties
  • Explain the working principle of different detector schemes. Distinguish its detection- and back action mechanisms
  • Model the interaction between a detector and the resonator. Discover how this leads to the standard quantum limit (SQL), quantum non-demolition (QND) measurements, and optomechanically-induced transparency (OMIT).
  • Outline different cooling mechanism and evaluate the final temperature of a cooling experiment.
  • Analyze the properties of simple (e.g. string, beam) and more complex (e.g. H) mechanical structures.
  • Assess the feasibility of a given design of an optomechanical sensor for small and large motion amplitudes.
  • Plan an experiment to measure one of the effects discussed in the module.


No preconditions in addition to the requirements for the Master’s program in Physics.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

VO 3 Nano- and Optomechanics Poot, M. Mon, 12:00–14:00, virtuell
Thu, 16:00–17:00, virtuell
UE 1 Exercise to Nano- and Optomechanics Poot, M. dates in groups

Learning and Teaching Methods

This Module consists of a lecture and exercise classes. During the lectures, the teaching and learning content is presented and explained in a didactical, structured, and comprehensive form. This includes basic background knowledge and an overview of current topics from the very broad research field. The former consists of theoretical tools, as well as an analysis of common experimental methods. Universal concepts are emphasized between different topics. Crucial facts are conveyed by involving the students in scientific discussions to develop their intellectual power and to stimulate their analytic thinking on physics problems.

In the exercise class, the concepts learned in the lectures are practiced and deepened. Problems will either be solved individually under supervision, in small groups, or plenary with input from all participants. The results are discussed during the exercise class. Additional problems for self study are available and in one of the classes, we will learn to use a finite-element program to simulate the mechanics of nanomechanical devices.

Regular attendance of the lectures and exercise classes is highly recommended.


    Lectures with blackboard work and beamer presentation, presentation files of the lecture, problem sheets. Hands-on exercise classes for finite-element-modeling using COMSOL.


    The lecture is based on the contents of two review articles:

    • M. Poot and H. van der Zant, "Mechanical systems in the quantum regime", Physics Reports 511 (2012) 273–335
    • M. Aspelmeyer et. al, "Cavity optomechanics", Rev. Mod. Phys. 86 (2014) 1391-1452

    Module Exam

    Description of exams and course work

    There will be an oral exam of 20 minutes duration. Therein the achievement of the competencies given in section learning outcome is tested exemplarily at least to the given cognition level using calculation problems and comprehension questions.

    For example an assignment in the exam might be:

    • Explain in your own words the Haus-Caves limit
    • Calculate the temperature of a resonator with properties XY coupled to a dc SQUID with properties Z
    • Name different designs of mechanical resonators
    • Recall the optomechanical Hamiltonian and the derivation of its limiting cases
    • Illustrate the difference between bottom-up and top-down devices

    Exam Repetition

    The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester.

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