Researchers at Simon Fraser University have designed a remarkably fast engine that harnesses a new kind of fuel: information.
The development of this motor, which converts the random tremor of a microscopic particle into stored energy, is described in research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and could lead to significant advances in the speed and cost of computers and bio-nanotechnologies.
John Bechhoefer, physics professor at SFU and lead author, explains that researchers’ understanding of how to quickly and effectively convert information into “work” can inform the design and creation of real information engines.
“We wanted to know how fast an information engine can go and how much energy it can extract, so we created one,” says Bechhoefer, whose experimental group collaborated with theorists led by the physics professor at SFU, David Sivak.
Engines of this type were first offered over 150 years ago, but their manufacture has only recently become possible.
“By systematically studying this engine and choosing the right features for the system, we have pushed its capabilities more than ten times further than other similar implementations, making it currently the best in its class,” says Sivak.
The information engine designed by SFU researchers consists of a microscopic particle submerged in water and attached to a source which, in turn, is attached to a moving stage. The researchers then watch the particle bounce up and down due to thermal movement.
“When we see an upward rebound, we raise the stage in response,” says lead author and doctoral student Tushar Saha. “When we see a bounce down, we wait. It ends up lifting the whole system using only information about the position of the particle.”
By repeating this procedure, they raise the particle “to a great height, and thus store a significant amount of gravitational energy”, without having to shoot the particle directly.
Saha further explains that “in the lab, we implement this motor with an instrument known as an optical trap, which uses a laser to create a force on the particle that mimics that of the spring and the stage.”
Joseph Lucero, Master of Science student adds, “In our theoretical analysis, we find an interesting compromise between the mass of the particle and the average time for the particle to bounce. While heavier particles can store more gravitational energy. , they usually also take longer to mount. “
“Guided by this idea, we chose the particle mass and other properties of the motor to maximize the speed at which the motor extracts energy, surpassing previous designs and achieving power comparable to that of molecular machines in cells. live, and speeds comparable to those of fast-swimming bacteria, ”says a postdoctoral fellow. Comrade Jannik Ehrich.
Source of the story:
Material provided by Simon Fraser University. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.