Irish researches have built a nano-engine, which is the smallest engine ever built by humans. Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland holds the title for building the world’s smallest engine. The engine is so small that the unaided eye cannot see it. Ten billion times smaller than a typical car engine, this engine is a single Calcium ion. QuSys group from Trinity School of Physics had worked on this project led by Prof. John Goold. These nanoengines could be used in the future to recycle waste heat and increase energy efficiency. This research was published in an international journal, Physical Review Letters.
The calcium ion is an electrically charged particle which can be trapped using electric fields. The fuel for this engine is the particle’s intrinsic spin which could be used to convert heat energy captured by the ion into physical movements like vibrations. Quantum mechanics specifies discrete units of energy termed “quanta.” The energy extracted from this ionic engine would be stored in quanta. QuSys group’s Dr. Mark Mitchison said that the vibrations were analogous to flywheels which could be utilized to measure the power output of this motor.
Quantum mechanics describes the lowest energy state of a particle as “ground state.” Starting this engine from rest, i.e., the ground state caused the engine to force the flywheel to run faster. The accessibility of the state of the charged particle allowed the physicists to assess the energy interactions accurately. Prof. Goold remarked that this experiment and its associated theory represented groundbreaking achievement in the field of quantum theory. This theory also represents the core topic that the physicists are researching.
Application of thermodynamics is deemed to be crucial to understand how microscopic systems respond to heat. One of the significant bottlenecks impeding research, nanoscale thermodynamics is an area of profound importance for sophisticated technology.
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