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An international team of researchers has developed a tiny, liquid-based engine powered by a demixing fluid. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes their little engine and possible uses for it.
The engine is essentially a tiny sphere orbiting a laser beam in a liquid solution. The sphere in the experiments was extremely tiny (2.48 micrometers in diameter) and made of iron oxide and silica. The liquid solution was a mixture of water and lutidine. The two ingredients were important, because together, they formed a critical liquid mixture that would separate at a desired temperature. In this case, separation occurred when its temperature warmed to approximately 34 degrees C.
Engine - Sphere - Solution - Point - Tweezers—a
Starting the tiny engine involved first placing the sphere into the liquid solution (held below its separating point) and then capturing it with optical tweezers—a laser beam. Initially, the sphere was held in place. The iron oxide allowed the sphere to absorb heat, which propelled the sphere away from the center of the optical tweezer beam. The power of the laser beam was then slowly raised, causing the temperature of the sphere to rise, which in turn caused a rise in temperature of the surrounding liquid. Eventually, as the temperature of the liquid reached...
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