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Nano Mill Powers Motor With Beams of Light

Here's another way to create energy from light: a research team at UC Berkeley have developed an ultra-tiny mill. So tiny that it powers a motor when literally pushed by polarized light beams.

According to Popular Science, light-driven motors aren't exactly new. But the power/size ratio of the team's development is unprecedented. The nano mill measures only 100 nanometers (or ten-millionths of a meter). It can however produce enough torque to spin a disk 4,000 times bigger (around 0.4 centimeters).

The speed and direction of these so-called "plasmonic" motors is a simple matter of modifying the driving light's wavelength and frequency. These factors, also measured in nanometers interact with the mill's "vanes" differently, creating a predictable and manageable control scheme.

As for possible applications, the research team believes its nano mill will make microscopic electromechanical systems easier to implement, allow for better power generation from solar energy, and make finer genetic manipulation possible. The last part is a simple matter of positioning the motor on the right place of a DNA strand, and shine some light on it to unravel the building blocks of our existence.