Measuring Small-Scale Gravitational Forces

A modulated source mass drives a test mass on a micromechanical structure purely via gravitational interaction

© Jonas Schmöle

© Jonas Schmöle

We are motivated by the question how well one can isolate gravity as a dominant coupling force between small-scale physical systems in table-top experiments. In other words: how small can one make a gravitational source mass and still detect its gravitational coupling to a nearby test mass? We have recently introduced a micromechanical method that should allow for a proof-of-concept demonstration for objects on the scale of millimeters and tens of milligrams, which already improves the current limit for sensing the gravitational field of a small source mass by three orders of magnitude. With further improvements this method provides an alternative high-precision measurement of the gravitational constant, which may be less subject to conventional source-mass related disturbances of other approaches. In the long run, the ability to extend the control over gravitational coupling into the microscopic domain may enable a new generation of quantum experiments, in which the source mass character of the quantum systems start to play a role.

Publications (selected):

A micromechanical proof-of-principle experiment for measuring the gravitational force of milligram masses
J. Schmöle, M. Dragosits, H. Hepach, M. Aspelmeyer
Class. Quantum Grav. 33, 125031 (2016)