World’s Fastest Man-Made Spinning Object May Help Study Quantum Mechanics

Tongcang Li,
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. (Image: Purdue University)
Tongcang Li, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. (Image: Purdue University)

Researchers have created the fastest man-made rotor in the world, which they believe will help them in the study of 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. The findings were published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Tongcang Li, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, said:

Li’s team synthesized a tiny dumbbell from silica and levitated it in a high vacuum using a laser. The laser can work in a straight line or in a circle — when it’s linear, the dumbbell vibrates, and when it’s circular, the dumbbell spins.

A nanodumbbell levitated by an optical tweezer in vacuum can vibrate or spin, depending on the polarization of the incoming laser. (Image: Purdue University/Tongcang Li)

A nanodumbbell levitated by an optical tweezer in a vacuum can vibrate or spin, depending on the polarization of the incoming laser. (Image: Purdue University/Tongcang Li)

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. 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’ll be able to study things like quantum mechanics and the properties of a vacuum.

Watch a video to see how it happens below:

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.

Researchers from Purdue, Peking University, Tsinghua University, and the Collaborative Innovation Center of Quantum Matter in Beijing also contributed to this work. The first author of this work is Jonghoon Ahn, a graduate student in Li’s research group. Li’s research was funded by the National Science Foundation and Office of Naval Research.

Provided by: Purdue University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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