Scientists from the University of Mainz, Germany, have created an engine that is one atom in size. Designed and built by a team of experimental physicists led by Johannes Rosnagel, the engine works in much the same way as a conventional car engine - converting temperature changes into mechanical energy. In his work, the same four steps are traced: compression, heating, expansion and cooling.
Rosnagel himself proposed a theoretical model of such an engine back in 2014, and only now has it been implemented. It was implemented as follows: physicists placed one atom of calcium-40 in an electromagnetic cone, where it was locked, like in a trap. By aiming two laser beams at the tip and base of the cone, the scientists made the atom move.
Researchers have not yet seen a practical application for the created model. This is not surprising, because despite the diminutiveness of the engine itself, the equipment for its operation, lasers, and the like, occupy most of the room.
Nevertheless, the creation of such an engine is of fundamental importance and will lead to a better understanding of the thermodynamics of single particles, scientists are sure. In the future, the next generation of experimenters will be able to create devices suitable for practical use.