Monday, 02 Sep, 2013 Science
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Researchers Develop the Fastest-Spinning Object on Earth

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A team of researchers managed to come up with a microscopic sphere that is able to spin at a speed of 600 million rotations per minute, which makes it the fastest spinning object on the planet so far.

It would be interesting to note that the sphere spins 500,000 times faster than a traditional standard washing machine.

The research and its results were published in the journal Nature Communications, and it would bring light on the physics of matter.

According to Michael Mazilu, a physicist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and one of the researchers that participated in the creation of the sphere, says that their new system poses mesmerizing questions regarding the thermodynamics and "is a challenging system to model theoretically".

He also says that the rotation speed of the sphere is so high that the angular acceleration at the sphere surface exceeds that of the Earth's surface by a billion of times. Mazilu was amazed to discover that the centrifugal forces [that push outward because of circular motion] do not lead to the disintegration of the sphere.

It is worth mentioning that very large objects play by the classical rules of physics described before the 20th century, whereas quantum theory talks about the strange behavior of tiny subatomic particles. But researchers are still unaware what happens between the very small and the tiny.

In order to answer this question they capture aggregations of atoms in a beam of light and attempt to spin them at a very high speed in a vacuum. Theoretically, such an experiment could bring light on the existence of quantum friction.

Together with his team Mazilu wanted to experiment at bigger objects that feature more than a million atoms. They created a tiny sphere of calcium that has a diameter of just 4 micrometers (for comparison a strand of hair measures about 40 micrometers in diameter). Researchers then levitated the object in a beam of laser light within a vacuum.

By altering the orientation of the light wave, scientists managed to exert a small twist on the ball.

With no air friction, which is able to slow down the ball, researchers managed to accelerate the sphere to 600 million rotations per minute (rpm) prior to the moment when it broke apart.

The sphere acted like a tiny gyroscope, which means it was able to stabilize its motion as it wobbled, thus cooling itself to minus 387 degrees Fahrenheit (- 233 C).

The research hasn't proven that quantum friction really exists, but according to researchers the follow-up experiments could.

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