Scientists were able to register a force of 174 yoktonewtons
Physicists have set the record by measuring the weakest ever recorded force at 174 yoctonewtons (yocto means 10-24).
In their experiments, scientists used the so-called Penning’s trap – a device that allows you to hold charged particles using electric and magnetic fields. Physicists “trapped” several tens of beryllium ions, cooled to a temperature of 0.5 microkelvin (zero kelvin, or absolute zero temperature, is equal to minus 273.15 degrees Celsius). Extreme cooling was necessary in order to get rid of the thermal displacements of beryllium atoms as much as possible.
In this “stationary” state, beryllium ions become very sensitive to fluctuations in the magnetic or electric field that cause them to move. By changing the characteristics of the fields, the authors of the work made the ions “bounce” in the trap.
To determine how much the ions moved (using this parameter, you can determine what was the value of the force that moved them), the scientists used a laser – they sent a beam into the trap and measured Doppler effect. This term denotes the change in frequency and wavelength of radiation depending on the movement of its source or receiver. If the ions moved towards the radiation source, then the laser beam reflected from them had a slightly higher frequency than the initial one. If the ions were removed, then the frequency was lower.
The value of the force obtained by scientists is three orders of magnitude less than all the values measured so far. For example, recently another team of researchers was able to measure the thrust of a “light engine” on a microscopic bead – it turned out to be equal to 10-15 Newtons. The authors of the study believe that their data will be useful to specialists working in the field of nanotechnology and miniaturization of computer chips.