Published in Physical Review Letters 130, 043802, 2023
Confining photons in cavities enhances the interaction between light and matter. In cavity optomechanics, this enables a wealth of phenomena ranging from optomechanically induced transparency to macroscopic objects cooled to their motional ground state. Previous work in cavity optomechanics employed devices here ubiquitous structural disorder played no role beyond perturbing resonance frequencies and quality factors. More generally, the interplay between disorder, which must be described by statistical physics, and optomechanical effects has thus far been unexplored. Here, we demonstrate how sidewall roughness in air-slot photonic-crystal waveguides can induce sufficiently strong backscattering of slot-guided light to create Anderson-localized modes with quality factors as high as half a million and mode volumes estimated to be below the diffraction limit. We observe how the interaction between these disorder-induced optical modes and in-plane mechanical modes of the slotted membrane is governed by a distribution of coupling rates, which can exceed optomehcanical couplings up to 200 KHz, leading to mechanical amplification up to self sustained oscillations via optomechanical backaction. Our Letter constitutes the first steps towards understanding optomechanics in the multiple-scattering regime and opens new perspectives for exploring complex systems with a multitude of mutually coupled degrees of freedom.