20th July (UPI) – The inventors of the world's fastest artificial rotor believe that their invention will drive the study of quantum mechanics, the branch of physics dedicated to the behavior of subatomic particles.
The new rotor can rotate at a speed of 60 billion revolutions per minute. Most aircraft turbines reach a top speed of 3,000 rpm.
Scientists described their impressive new device this week in the journal Physical Review Letters.
"This study has many applications, including materials science," Tongcang Li, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University, said in a news release. "We can study the extreme conditions under which different materials can survive."
The rotor consists of a tiny silica dumbbell. The scientists used a laser to levitate the dumbbell in a vacuum. The shape rotation of the laser light determines whether the dumbbell vibrates or rotates. The device works like two instruments in one.
When the laser light is circularly polarized and the dumbbell rotates, the device functions like a rotor, and when the laser is pulsed and the dumbbell vibrates, the device works as a torsional balance, a small instrument that can measure small forces and torques.
Scientists used to use torsion scales to study gravity and measure Earth's density. Researchers believe that the new device will help them to analyze vacuum friction and better understand quantum physics.
"People say there is nothing in the vacuum, but in physics we know it's not really empty," Li said. "There are a lot of virtual particles that stay short and then disappear Find out what's really going on there, and that's why we want to create the most sensitive torsional balance. "
Another team of scientists used a similar approach to spin minute particles at 60 billion revolutions per minute. They described their work in the same journal. Although Swiss scientists also believe that the technology could support a variety of scientific endeavors, they were originally motivated only by curiosity and pride.
"To be honest," said Rene Reimann, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in a press release. "It was just super cool to have the fastest rotating mechanical object in the world right in front of us."