World’s fastest-spinning object powered by light

Scientists at Purdue University created the object, which revolves at 300 billion revolutions per minute- making it the world’s fastest-spinning object and the most sensitive torque detector by suspending a nanoparticle in a vacuum with a laser and then using a second laser to test its torque sensitivity.

The nanoparticle is made of silica that can act as the world’s most sensitive torque detector. It is expected to be used in friction measurement created by quantum effects.

Hearing that the nanoparticle is powered by light could lead one to think that the particle must contain some solar-powered capability. But, in reality, light itself applies an extremely small but measurable amount of force on nearly any object.

Scientists at Purdue University have created the world's fastest-spinning human-made object and the most sensitive torque detector by suspending a nanoparticle in a vacuum with a laser, and then using a second laser to test its torque sensitivity. (Purdue University image/Jonghoon Ahn)
Scientists at Purdue University have created the world’s fastest-spinning human-made object and the most sensitive torque detector by suspending a nanoparticle in a vacuum with a laser, and then using a second laser to test its torque sensitivity. (Purdue University image/Jonghoon Ahn)

Tingcang Li, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, said, “In the 1600s Johannes Kepler saw that the tails of comets always pointed away from the sun because of radiation pressure. We use the same thing, but with concentrated lasers, to levitate and rotate the nanoparticles.”

Besides setting the record for rotation speed, the nanoparticles can measure torque at levels 600–700 times more sensitive than any device before.

The research was published this week in Nature Nanotechnology.

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