Microscopic Engine Runs With A Single Particle, Lasers And Electric Fields.

First Posted: Oct 29, 2015 03:05 PM EDT

Researchers have created a new microscopic engine that runs on a single particle, lasers and electric fields instead of gas, according to a recent study at The Institute of Photonic Sciences in coloration with the Complutense University of Madrid.

"The technology developed at ICFO is unique and allows one to tune the temperature of the particle in a very precise way. This fine tuning is a must for the success of the experiment and, consequently, ICFO is one of the few places where our micromotor could be developed" said Raul Rica, researcher of the study, in a news release.

The newly developed microscopic engine operates between two thermal baths, which make it a micro Carnot engine, according to the researchers. In the macroscopic level, a thermal engine makes it possible for a car engine to work, where gas is compressed and distributed at different temperatures. This converts thermal energy into mechanical energy, which makes it possible for a car to move.

The researchers created a microscopic engine that has the same properties as a Carnot engine, which was a breakthrough in thermodynamics.

The microscopic motor uses temperature variance, similar to engines in cars, which use temperature difference between hot gas in the piston and the air outside. However, this motor uses a single particle, lasers and electrical fields instead of cylinders, pistons and crankshafts, according to the researchers.

The microscopic heat engines traps a micro-particle using a laser trap, and tunes the effective temperature of the particle via noisy electric fields, increasing the Brownian fluctuations of the trapped particle, according to the researchers. They were able to control confinement of the particle in the trap by modifying the laser power, which is similar to the gas inside the cylinder of a car engine.

The findings of the study conclude that it is possible to build systems that transform any temperature difference into useful work or electric power, the researchers claimed.

"Being able to understand thermodynamics at the microscale is a definite step forward towards comprehending how motors function within our cells," said Ignacio Martínez, a researcher of the study. "Knowing how these operate will allow us to design artificial nanomotors and apply them in state-of-the-art fields such as intelligent materials, artificial muscles, or even nanorobots."

The findings of this study were published in Nature Physics.

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