Fastest rotating man-made object created

A team of researchers at the University of St Andrews has created the world’s fastest spinning man-made object.

Dr Yoshihiki Arita, Dr Michael Mazilu and Professor Kishan Dholakia of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews were able to levitate and spin a microscopic sphere, purely using laser light in a vacuum, briefly up to 600 million RPM before it broke apart.

This speed is half a million times faster than the spin speed of a domestic washing machine and more than a thousand times faster than a dental drill. The work is published today in the international journal Nature Communications.

Although there is much international research exploring what happens at the boundary between classical physics and quantum physics, most of this experimental work uses atoms or molecules. The St Andrews team aimed to understand what happened for larger objects containing a million million atoms or more. To do this they manufactured a microscopic sphere of calcium carbonate only 4 millionths of a metre in diameter. The team then used the miniscule forces of laser light to hold the sphere with the radiation pressure of light – rather like levitating a beach ball with a jet of water. Via Fastest rotating man-made object created.

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