Experimental realization of a rotational ratchet in a granular gas

Phys Rev Lett. 2010 Jun 18;104(24):248001. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.248001. Epub 2010 Jun 16.


We construct a ratchet of the Smoluchowski-Feynman type, consisting of four vanes that are allowed to rotate freely in a vibrofluidized granular gas. The necessary out-of-equilibrium environment is provided by the inelastically colliding grains, and the equally crucial symmetry breaking by applying a soft coating to one side of each vane. The onset of the ratchet effect occurs at a critical shaking strength via a smooth, continuous phase transition. For very strong shaking the vanes interact actively with the gas and a convection roll develops, sustaining the rotation of the vanes.