Probing Planck-scale physics with quantum optics

Author(s): I. Pikovski, M. R. Vanner, M. Aspelmeyer, M. S. Kim, Č. Brukner

Journal: Nature Physics

Volume: 8

Page(s): 393–397

Year: 2012

DOI Number: 10.1038/NPHYS2262

Link: Link to publication


One of the main challenges in physics today is to merge quantum theory and the theory of general relativity into a unified framework. Researchers are developing various approaches towards such a theory of quantum gravity, but a major hindrance is the lack of experimental evidence of quantum gravitational effects. Yet, the quantization of spacetime itself can have experimental implications: the existence of a minimal length scale is widely expected to result in a modification of the Heisenberg uncertainty relation. Here we introduce a scheme to experimentally test this conjecture by probing directly the canonical commutation relation of the centre-of-mass mode of a mechanical oscillator with a mass close to the Planck mass. Our protocol uses quantum optical control and readout of the mechanical system to probe possible deviations from the quantum commutation relation even at the Planck scale. We show that the scheme is within reach of current technology. It thus opens a feasible route for table-top experiments to explore possible quantum gravitational phenomena.


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