Dublin, Aug. 24: In the world of science, every day comes with surprises or new discoveries. Creating another scientific discovery, Theoretical physicists at Trinity College Dublin has built the ‘World’s smallest Engine’ which is in size of single calcium ion.
As per the report, this machine is approximately ten billion times smaller than a car engine. This discovery is a byproduct of an international collaboration.
According to the report, In the future, such devices could be incorporated into other technologies in order to recycle waste heat and thus improve energy efficiency.
The groundbreaking experiment was carried out by a research group led by Professor Ferdinand Schmidt-Kaler and Dr. Ulrich Poschinger of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.
The engine itself—a single calcium ion—is electrically charged, which makes it easy to trap using electric fields. The working substance of the engine is the ion's "intrinsic spin" (its angular momentum). This spin is used to convert heat absorbed from laser beams into oscillations, or vibrations, of the trapped ion.
These vibrations act like a "flywheel", which captures the useful energy generated by the engine. This energy is stored in discrete units called "quanta", as predicted by quantum mechanics.
Dr. Mark Mitchison, who is one of the co-authors of the article said, “The flywheel allows us to actually measure the power output of an atomic-scale motor, resolving single quanta of energy, for the first time”.
Starting the flywheel from rest—or, more precisely, from its "ground state" (the lowest energy in quantum physics)—the team observed the little engine forcing the flywheel to run faster and faster. Crucially, the state of the ion was accessible in the experiment, allowing the physicists to precisely assess the energy deposition process.
Assistant Professor of Physics at Trinity, John Goold said, "This experiment and theory ushers in a new era for the investigation of the energetics of technologies based on quantum theory, which is a topic at the core of our group's research. Heat management at the nanoscale is one of the fundamental bottlenecks for faster and more efficient computing. Understanding how thermodynamics can be applied in such microscopic settings is of paramount importance for future technologies."