Scientists have developed the fastest man-made rotor in the world, which they believe will help them study quantum mechanics.
Scientists have developed the fastest man-made rotor in the world, which they believe will help them study quantum mechanics. At more than 60 billion revolutions per minute, this machine is more than 100,000 times faster than a high-speed dental drill. “This study has many applications, including material science. We can study the extreme conditions different materials can survive in,” said Tongcang Li, an assistant professor at Purdue University in the US.
The team synthesised a tiny dumbbell from silica and levitated it in high vacuum using a laser. The laser can work in a straight line or in a circle – when it is linear, the dumbbell vibrates, and when it is circular, the dumbbell spins. A spinning dumbbell functions as a rotor, and a vibrating dumbbell functions like an instrument for measuring tiny forces and torques, known as a torsion balance.
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These devices were used to discover things like the gravitational constant and density of Earth, but Li hopes that as they become more advanced, they will be able to study things like quantum mechanics and the properties of vacuum. Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles. “People say that there is nothing in vacuum, but in physics, we know it’s not really empty,” Li said.
“There are a lot of virtual particles which may stay for a short time and then disappear. We want to figure out what’s really going on there, and that’s why we want to make the most sensitive torsion balance,” he said. By observing this tiny dumbbell spin faster than anything before it, Li’s team may also be able to learn things about vacuum friction and gravity. Understanding these mechanisms is an essential goal for the modern generation of physics, Li said.