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An incomprehensibly small engine

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  • Location: Camborne
  • Location: Camborne

Picture an ant. It’s fuzzy, black and small, maybe a fifth of an inch long — and capable of carrying up to 50 times its own body weight. Now envision a powerful motor a million times smaller. (You can’t, not really, but don’t worry — the human brain wasn’t designed that way.)

It’s at this microscopic scale that scientists at the University of Cambridge say they’ve constructed a working engine. The prototype motor, which the physicists described Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, relies on lasers, gold particles and the exploitation of a nifty physics principle called van der Waals forces.


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