Scientists have created the world’s fastest spinning object, a tiny dumbbell-shaped nanoparticle made from silica, that spins at rates close to 60 billion rotations per second. The scientists made the dumbbell spin by levitating it using a laser. The discovery will help scientists study things like quantum mechanics and the properties of vacuum like vacuum friction and gravity.
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,” said Tongcang Li, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and electrical and computer engineering, at Purdue University. “We can study the extreme conditions different materials can survive in.” Li’s team synthesized 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’s linear, the dumbbell vibrates, and when it’s 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. 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 vacuum.