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Research shows that nanomachine swarms could improve the efficiency of other machines

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Nanotech researchers at the University of Luxembourg have found that nanomachines are far more efficient at converting one type energy into another compared to their larger counterparts, such as motors and other industrial machines, for example.

It’s well known that all machines convert one form of energy into another; for example, a car engine turns the energy created by its fuel into motion. But, energy conversion, covered by the science of thermodynamics, takes place not only on the macro level in big machines, but also at the micro- and even nano-level of molecular machines that drive muscles or metabolic processes.

The research team led by Professor Massimiliano Esposito of the University of Luxembourg studies the thermodynamics of tiny nanomachines consisting of only a few atoms. Their insights will be used to improve the energy efficiency of all kinds of machines, big and small.

Recent progress in nanotechnology has enabled researchers to understand the world at ever-smaller scales and even design and manufacture extremely small machines.

There is evidence that these machines are far more efficient than large machines, such as cars. Yet in absolute terms, their output is low compared to our needs in daily life applications,” said Tim Herpich, PhD student at University’s research group and main author of the paper. “That is why we studied how nanomachines interact with each other, and looked at how their ensembles behave. We wanted to see if there are synergies when they act together.

The researchers found that under certain conditions nanomachines start to arrange in swarms and synchronise their movements.

“We could show that the self-synchronisation of the machines triggers significant synergy, so that the overall energy output of the ensemble is far greater than the sum of the individual outputs,” added Professor Esposito.

While this research is still at an early stage, its principles might be used to improve the efficiency of any machine in the future.

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