At timescales once deemed immeasurably small by Einstein, the random movement of Brownian particles in a liquid is expected to be replaced by ballistic motion. So far, an experimental verification of this prediction has been out of reach due to a lack of instrumentation fast and precise enough to capture this motion. Here we report the observation of the Brownian motion of a single particle in an optical trap with 75 MHz bandwidth and sub-ångström spatial precision and the determination of the particle’s velocity autocorrelation function. Our observation is the first measurement of ballistic Brownian motion of a particle in a liquid. The data are in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions taking into account the inertia of the particle and hydrodynamic memory effects.
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This research was supported by NSF grants PHY-0647144 and DBI-0552094. S.J. and B.L. acknowledge support from the NCCR Nanoscale Science. M.G.R. acknowledges support from the Sid W. Richardson Foundation and the R. A. Welch Foundation, grant number F-1258. We thank V. Zyuzin for translating ref. 14.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Huang, R., Chavez, I., Taute, K. et al. Direct observation of the full transition from ballistic to diffusive Brownian motion in a liquid. Nature Phys 7, 576–580 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys1953
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