Summon a 'demon' to turn information into energy: The rotor is formed from two linked polystyrene beads each 0.3 micrometres across. One is pinned to a glass surface leaving the other free to rotate around it and the whole thing is immersed in fluid. Buffeted by molecules of the fluid, the rotor turns clockwise as often as it does anti-clockwise.
But then the researchers add a complex electric field that applies a gentle torque to the rotor, which varies at different angles. The torque is analogous to the force of gravity acting on the tiny ball on a staircase...
Finally, enter the demon, whose eye is a camera and brain a computer that controls the electric field. Whenever the rotor makes some progress in turning against the torque, the demon shifts the electric field so that the rotor suddenly finds itself nudged onto the top of that "step". This keeps happening, and the overall effect is to gradually climb the staircase.
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