Fastest rotating man-made object created

Aug 28, 2013

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers at the University of St Andrews has created the world's fastest spinning man-made object.

Dr Yoshihiki Arita, Dr Michael Mazilu and Professor Kishan Dholakia of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews were able to levitate and spin a microscopic sphere, purely using in a vacuum, briefly up to 600 million RPM before it broke apart.

This speed is half a million times faster than the spin speed of a domestic washing machine and more than a thousand times faster than a dental drill.

The work is published today in the international journal Nature Communications.

Although there is much international research exploring what happens at the boundary between and , most of this experimental work uses atoms or molecules. The St Andrews team aimed to understand what happened for larger objects containing a million million atoms or more.

To do this they manufactured a microscopic sphere of only 4 millionths of a metre in diameter. The team then used the miniscule forces of laser light to hold the sphere with the of light - rather like levitating a beach ball with a jet of water.

They exploited the property of of the laser light that changed as the light passed through the levitating sphere, exerting a small twist or torque.

Placing the sphere in vacuum largely removed the drag (friction) due to any gas environment, allowing the team to achieve the very high .

In addition to the rotation, the team observed a "compression" of the excursions or "wobble" of the particle in all , which can be understood as a "cooling" of the motion. Essentially the particle behaved like the world's smallest , stabilising its motion around the .

Dr Yoshihiko Arita said: "This is an exciting, thought-provoking experiment that pushes the boundary of our understanding of rotating bodies.

"I am intrigued with the prospect of extending this to multiple trapped particles and rotating systems. We may even be able to shed light on the area of quantum friction – that is – does quantum mechanics put the brakes on the motion or spinning particle even though we are in a near perfect vacuum with no other apparent sources of friction?"

Dr Michael Mazilu, a newly appointed lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "This system poses fascinating questions with regard to thermodynamics and is a challenging system to model theoretically. The rotation rate is so fast that the angular acceleration at the sphere surface is 1 billion times that of gravity on the Earth surface– it's amazing that the centrifugal forces do not cause the sphere to disintegrate!"

Professor Kishan Dholakia said: "The team has performed a real breakthrough piece of work that we believe will resonate with the international community. In addition to the exciting fundamental physics aspects, this experiment will allow us to probe the nature of friction in very small systems, which has relevance to the next generation of microscopic devices. And it's always good to hold a "world record" - even if for only a while!"

Explore further: Researchers optically levitate a glowing, nanoscale diamond (w/ Video)

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Gmr
4.3 / 5 (26) Aug 28, 2013
This is absolutely awesome. Basic research with no immediate application: just to start exploring another region of extreme properties. This is why we need publicly funded science - for unanswered questions such as this.

How do you figure out physical reality? Push it 'til it breaks.
hemitite
1.2 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2013
Quantum friction - that's a new one on me!
Stavros
1 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2013
So, if you can levitate and spin them, conceivably, you could knock them into eachother also, no? And wouldn't that be a little like a big expensive particle accelerator?
hemitite
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2013
So, if you can levitate and spin them, conceivably, you could knock them into eachother also, no? And wouldn't that be a little like a big expensive particle accelerator?


No, more like a mix-master.
joefarah
1.4 / 5 (10) Aug 28, 2013
I would love to have the sphere charged electrically and see what kind of magnetic vortex it induces.
curiousabouteverything
4.5 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2013
Imagine a quantum centrifuge...could be a great tool
joefarah
1.4 / 5 (9) Aug 28, 2013
By my calculations, the outside of the sphere was moving at 120 m/s when it broke apart.
travisr
5 / 5 (4) Aug 28, 2013
I got a 125 m/s, which is relatively slow. With some approximations with the yield strength of CaCO3 at 5MPA, and Diamond at 5800MPA, and the estimated centripetal load to yield strength break ratio at .143, a diamond should be able to get to ~1900 m/s or 9.13E9 RPM. That is almost Mach 5, I wonder if you could hear the boom (considering atmosphere)?
Protoplasmix
1.4 / 5 (10) Aug 28, 2013
I got a 125 m/s, which is relatively slow. … diamond should be able to get to ~1900 m/s or 9.13E9 RPM. That is almost Mach 5, I wonder if you could hear the boom (considering atmosphere)?

Got about 125 m/s also. Trick question re diamond? The CaCO3 was rotated in vacuum, so no boom with diamond. Not sure you could spin it that fast considering atmosphere?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (9) Aug 28, 2013
I got a 125 m/s, which is relatively slow. With some approximations with the yield strength of CaCO3 at 5MPA, and Diamond at 5800MPA, and the estimated centripetal load to yield strength break ratio at .143, a diamond should be able to get to ~1900 m/s or 9.13E9 RPM. That is almost Mach 5, I wonder if you could hear the boom (considering atmosphere)?
What about a bucky ball? You could put something inside of it, maybe to separate or compress or something.

I know - lets make muons.
http://en.wikiped...d_fusion
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2013
Finally, a science result presented without spin. [/ducks]
amateur
1 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2013
Can we do this with an magnet, in a frictionless environment,, and use it to store energy? If it's big enough, and spinning fast enough, this would probably make an awesome battery.
Hoama
1 / 5 (8) Sep 01, 2013
Congrats amateur, you've invented the flywheel!