Measurement of quantum back action in the audio band at room temperature

Jonathan Cripe, Louisiana State University
Nancy Aggarwal, LIGO, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Robert Lanza, LIGO, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Adam Libson, LIGO, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Robinjeet Singh, Louisiana State University
Paula Heu, Crystalline Mirror Solutions LLC
David Follman, Crystalline Mirror Solutions LLC
Garrett D. Cole, Crystalline Mirror Solutions LLC
Nergis Mavalvala, LIGO, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thomas Corbitt, Louisiana State University


Quantum mechanics places a fundamental limit on the precision of continuous measurements. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle dictates that as the precision of a measurement of an observable (for example, position) increases, back action creates increased uncertainty in the conjugate variable (for example, momentum). In interferometric gravitational-wave detectors, higher laser powers reduce the position uncertainty created by shot noise (the photon-counting error caused by the quantum nature of the laser) but necessarily do so at the expense of back action in the form of quantum radiation pressure noise (QRPN)1. Once at design sensitivity, the gravitational-wave detectors Advanced LIGO2, VIRGO3 and KAGRA4 will be limited by QRPN at frequencies between 10 hertz and 100 hertz. There exist several proposals to improve the sensitivity of gravitational-wave detectors by mitigating QRPN5–10, but until now no platform has allowed for experimental tests of these ideas. Here we present a broadband measurement of QRPN at room temperature at frequencies relevant to gravitational-wave detectors. The noise spectrum obtained shows effects due to QRPN between about 2 kilohertz and 100 kilohertz, and the measured magnitude of QRPN agrees with our model. We now have a testbed for studying techniques with which to mitigate quantum back action, such as variational readout and squeezed light injection7, with the aim of improving the sensitivity of future gravitational-wave detectors.