World's Fastest Spinning Object Created by Scientists—and It Rotates at 300 Billion RPM

Scientists have set a new record for the world's fastest spinning object by creating a tiny device which spins at a staggering 300 billion revolutions per minute.

To put that into perspective, the device spins about 500,000 times faster than a dentist's drill, according to the team from Purdue University who designed it.

"It's always exciting to set a world record," Tongcang Li, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, said in a statement.

The object is an incredibly small silica nanoparticle—which looks like two spheres joined together when viewed through an electron microscope.

To make it spin extremely fast, the scientists simply used the power of light. First, they levitated the object in a vacuum using a laser, and then used another laser to accelerate it, according to a study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

This is possible because particles of light—known as photons—exert a tiny but measurable force on any object it comes into contact with. This force is known is light radiation pressure and its millions of times weaker than gravity.

"In the 1600s Johannes Kepler saw that the tails of comets always pointed away from the sun because of radiation pressure," Li said. "We use the same thing, but with concentrated lasers, to levitate and rotate the nanoparticles."

In addition to being the world's fastest spinning object, the nanoparticle also serves as the most sensitive known torque detector, the scientists said. Torque is a measure of the force that causes an object to rotate around an axis.

In fact, the device is 600-700 times more sensitive than any other previous device that's capable of measuring torque. The Purdue team say this will enable them to measure and investigate special effects in quantum mechanics—the bizarre physics of the very small.

In 2018, the team set the previous world record for the fastest spinning object with a similar device that could spin at 60 billion rotations per minute—a fifth as fast as the latest device.

While light radiation pressure is an incredibly weak force, the idea is being used to test new methods of spacecraft propulsion. For example, last year, the Planetary Society, launched a spacecraft known as LightSail 2 which propels itself by harnessing the gentle push of photons from the sun, similarly to how conventional sails use the power of the wind to propel boats.