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Nanomechanical Systems as Information Processors and Oscillator Networks

Mechanical systems have been used for hundreds of years as clocks and relays - miniaturizing these to the nanoscale reveals interesting physics and offers new applications.

Nanomechanical self-sustained oscillators act as tiny clocks which can synchronize when coupled together. In ideal networks where each oscillator is the same, synchronization is an example of a spontaneously broken symmetry in time. Such 'broken symmetries' could be useful for constructing low noise frequency sources and neuromorphic computers. Here I describe experimental states found in a ring of 8 nanomechanical oscillators.
Mechanical relays composed the first computer envisioned by Charles Babbage. Today, nanomechanical relays are envisioned as a "more-than-Moore" technology since such relays avoid the problem of 'sub-threshold' current leakage due to the Boltzmann factor in carrier diffusion. Recently, I have been interested in scaling down the energy of such devices to their ultimate limit where only ~1zJ is required to turn on the relay. At this limit, information theory and thermodynamics clash and noise cannot be ignored.
Nanomechanical systems have extremely low heat capacities at low-temperatures, these may act as the dissipative environment of solid-state computing devices. The physics of information processing within environments reduced to just a few degrees-of-freedom is not well understood. The advent of new nanofabrication technologies and nanocalorimetry techniques offers exciting possibilities to study such physics.

Cavity optomechanics

Cavity optomechanics, the combination of optical cavities and mechancial resonators, has proven to be the most sensitive method of detecting individual excitations of sound in solids, i.e. phonons. These systems offer new possiblities in quantum sensing and computation. Previously, I have researched the methods by which the interaction between light and sound may be increased. Currently, I am examining these system to study self-sustained oscillators in the quantum regime.

Exotic nanomechanical systems

Nanomechanical systems are very flexible in size and available materials. Exploring new materials may lead to advances in quantum or classical nanomechanical applications.