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Transmission of torque at the nanoscale

Nature Physics volume 12, pages 98103 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

In macroscopic mechanical devices, torque is transmitted through gearwheels and clutches. In the construction of devices at the nanoscale, torque and its transmission through soft materials will be a key component. However, this regime is dominated by thermal fluctuations leading to dissipation. Here we demonstrate the principle of torque transmission for a disc-like colloidal assembly exhibiting clutch-like behaviour, driven by 27 particles in optical traps. These are translated on a circular path to form a rotating boundary that transmits torque to additional particles confined to the interior. We investigate this transmission and find that it is determined by solid-like or fluid-like behaviour of the device and a stick–slip mechanism reminiscent of macroscopic gearwheels slipping. The transmission behaviour is predominantly governed by the rotation rate of the boundary and the density of the confined system. We determine the efficiency of our device and thus optimize conditions to maximize power output.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge J. Eggers, M. Heinen and R. Jack for helpful discussions. C.P.R. and I.W. acknowledge the Royal Society and European Research Council (ERC Consolidator Grant NANOPRS, project number 617266). Additionally, I.W. was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The work of E.C.O. and H.L. was supported by the ERC Advanced Grant INTERCOCOS (project number 267499). E.C.O. was also supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program (project number OG 98/1-1).

Author information

Author notes

    • Ian Williams

    Present address: Department of Chemical Engineering, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.

Affiliations

  1. H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory, Tyndall Avenue Bristol BS8 1TL, UK

    • Ian Williams
    •  & C. Patrick Royall
  2. School of Chemistry, Cantock’s Close, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TS, UK

    • Ian Williams
    • , Paul Bartlett
    •  & C. Patrick Royall
  3. Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information, Tyndall Avenue Bristol BS8 1FD, UK

    • Ian Williams
    •  & C. Patrick Royall
  4. Department of Chemistry, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA

    • Erdal C. Oğuz
  5. Institut für Theoretische Physik II, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany

    • Erdal C. Oğuz
    •  & Hartmut Löwen
  6. Institut für Physik, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Staudingerweg 7-9, D-55128 Mainz, Germany

    • Thomas Speck

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Contributions

I.W. and C.P.R. conceived the experiments. I.W. built the experimental apparatus and performed the experiments. E.C.O., C.P.R. and H.L. conceived the simulations. E.C.O. carried out the simulations. T.S. performed the theoretical efficiency analysis. All authors contributed to the data analysis and writing of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Hartmut Löwen or C. Patrick Royall.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3490

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