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Resonant Detection of Short-Range Gravitational Forces

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Some theories predict a short-range component to the gravitational force, typically modeled as a Yukawa modification of the gravitational potential. This force is usually detected by measuring the motion of a mechanical oscillator driven by an external mass. In this talk I will discuss such an apparatus optimized for use in the 10-100 micron distance range. The setup consists of a cantilever-style silicon nitride oscillator suspended above a rotating drive mass. Periodic density variations in the drive mass cause an oscillatory gravitational force on the cantilever, whose position is read out using optical interferometry. In order to drive the cantilever precisely on resonance, it must have a broad resonant peak; however, lower quality factors reduce force sensitivity by reducing the amplitude of oscillation for a given drive force. We solve this problem by implementing an effective damping on the oscillator by use of optical feedback. I will discuss further applications of this feedback technique, as well as improvements to the apparatus and future experiments.