Physics & Astronomy ETDs


Fenfei Liu

Publication Date



The radiation pressure of the large circulating optical power inside micro-scale high quality factor Whispering-Gallery mode micoresonators couples the mechanical deformation of the resonator structure to the optical resonance. This coupling results in damping or amplification of the corresponding mechanical modes. Self-sustained mechanical oscillation takes place when the optomechanical gain becomes larger than mechanical loss. In this dissertation, several applications of optomechanical oscillator (OMO) in communication and sensing are proposed and explored using silica microtoroid resonator. First we investigate the spectrum of the OMO and define weak' and 'strong' harmonic generation regimes based on two distinct spectral behaviors. In weak harmonic regime, an analytical method is proposed to optimize the spectral behavior of an OMO for RF-photonic communication systems. In the strong harmonic regime, we show that OMO spectrum can be used in a read-out system for resonant optical sensing applications. Next, we explore optomechanical RF mixing and its application in RF-photonics. We study optomechanical RF mixing using coupled differential equations as well as a semi-analytical model that simplifies the calculation of mixed frequency components. Furthermore, optomechanical down-conversion of various waveforms and audio signal from an RF carrier are demonstrated. Here for the first time we show that an OMO can function as a high-resolution mass sensor based on optomechanical oscillation frequency shift. In an OMO based mass sensor, optical power simultaneously servers as an efficient actuator and a sensitive probe for monitoring optomechanical oscillation frequency variations. The narrow linewidth of optomechanical oscillation and the small effective mass of the corresponding mechanical mode result in sub-pg mass sensitivity. We analyze the performance of microtoroid OMO mass sensor and evaluate its ultimate detection limit. The outcomes of our study enable combination of resonant optical sensing with optomechanical sensing in a single device. This so-called 'dual-mode' sensing can be a powerful technique for measuring the properties (mass, density and refractive index) of micro/nano-particles and molecules. To boost the optical sensitivity of the dual-mode sensor, we also demonstrate a dynamic sensing method where the resonant photonic sensitivity is improved by over 50 times through thermally induced line narrowing.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Physics & Astronomy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Thomas, James L.

Second Committee Member

Leseman, Zayd C.

Third Committee Member

Sheik-Bahae, Mansoor

Project Sponsors

National Science Foundation




Optical resonator, Communication, Sensor, Optomechanical oscillator

Document Type