Spin-Cooling of the Motion of a Trapped Diamond

There is still some fundamental questions about the complete description of how a physical system goes from the quantum to the classical world –the decoherence-. A way to answer those questions could be to put macroscopic objects, such as mechanical oscillators, in a quantum superposition state. This ambitious objective requires in the first place to control extremely precisely the motion of a mechanical oscillator.

Tremendous progress have been made in that way by using the mechanical forces that light can apply on massive objects. More recently, an alternative approach emerged, aiming to use the magnetism of electron spins. This idea came from the remarkable electrons properties found in some materials. For instance, the electrons localised on a specific default in diamond, the NV center, are well enough isolated so that we can efficiently control their spin state and thus their magnetism using a combination of laser and microwave fields. In principle, only one of those quantum magnets could allow to influence the motion of a macroscopic object, bridging the quantum and classical worlds. However, the experimental implementation of such a process is a formidable challenge.

For the first time, Researcher at the LPENS manage to act on the motion of a mechanical oscillator, a diamond levitating in an electrostatic trap, using the spin of the few billions of NV centers contained in the diamond. They could further demonstrate that the spins can be used to cool down the motion of the diamond. The road toward fundamental tests of quantum physics is still very long, but those results are an important step on it.

Those results have been published in Nature ( arxiv here (


Artist view of the experiment (© Gabriel Hétet): A diamond is levitating in a ring electrostatic trap. Using a laser and a microwave field, one can control the magnetic state of the electron spin of NV centers contained in the diamond. Like tiny compass, spins try to align with an external magnetic field, applying a torque on the diamond.