Radiation Pressure Prize Challenge

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The picture shows comet Hale Bopp in 1997 (image by Philipp Salzgeber). Four hundred years ago, Johannes Kepler wrote a book about comets, "De Cometis" (1619). He speculated that the tail of the comet points away from the sun because of a force exerted by the sun's light. Nowadays, we know radiation pressure indeed is responsible for deflecting the neutral, dust part of the tail (the solar wind of charged particles makes up for another contribution). Experimentally, radiation pressure was first demonstrated in the laboratory about 100 years ago, independently by Nichols and Hull at Dartmouth College and by Lebedev in Moscow (see a description of the device used back then). In the past few years, radiation pressure has become important in the study of nanomechanical systems, in the context of "cavity optomechanics". Nevertheless, a simple demonstration of radiation pressure seems not to be readily available.

That is why, in 2009, Khaled Karrai and Florian Marquardt decided to turn this problem into a prize challenge. The challenge was first officially announced in March 2010 at the Gordon Research Conference on "Mechanical Systems in the Quantum Regime". This web page lists the official rules for the prize challenge.

The goal

Come up with a simple, direct, and educational low-cost experimental demonstration of the effect of radiation pressure!

The conditions

  • 1 - The effect should be seen with simple means without the need of sophisticated data analysis (a directly visible effect is preferred)

  • 2 - An operating prototype is required, including instructions and a convincing explanation that the effect is dominated by
 radiation pressure

  • 3 - The experiment will have to be assembled and conducted by Florian Marquardt (or an equivalent theoretician), only according to instructions (oral, video, written, dictated, mimed,...), employing commercially available components. This should be doable without a lab environment.

  • 4 - The maximum total cost for the components should 
be less than EUR 1000

The prize

The grand prize consists of EUR 2000 awarded to the winning submission.

The prize money is sponsored by Khaled Karrai from attocube systems.

The fine print

  • The jury includes Khaled Karrai and Florian Marquardt
  • The submission deadline has been extended to: end of August 2012
  • The intellectual property remains with the inventor
  • Elegant solutions are preferred
  • A low-cost solution without the need for computers will be considered elegant
  • A complete submission includes (i) the instructions, (ii) a component list with directions where to obtain these components and approximate prizes , (iii) an explanation of why the effect is dominated by radiation pressure, and (iv) convincing proof of an operating prototype (e.g. a video showing the operation or photographs)
  • Submissions can be from individuals or teams
  • No individual can be part of two submissions
  • The jury will go through the instructions for all submissions and have a look at the proofs for the operating prototype. The jury will then select the most promising submissions. The theoretician will try to build a working setup based on the instructions.
  • When judging whether the cost for components meets the threshold, reasonable allowance will be made for exchange rate fluctuations
  • The assembly and operation of the set up must not endanger the presenter or the audience
  • The final decision of the jury is binding