Transmission of torque at the nanoscale

Ian Williams, Erdal C. Oguz, Thomas Speck, Paul Bartlett, Hartmut Löwen, C. Patrick Royall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


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. View full text
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-103
Number of pages6
JournalNature Physics
Issue number1
Early online date5 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

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  • Colloids, Condensed-matter physics, Statistical physics, thermodynamics and nonlinear dynamics


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