Is it possible to create a “one-way street” for mechanical energy that only allows heat and sound to flow in one direction?

In most standard set-ups, this is impossible: if acoustic energy can flow in one direction, then it can also flow in the reverse direction. Finding new ways to break this basic symmetry has sparked the interest of many scientists and engineers in recent years. Such one-way streets could be extremely useful in a variety of applications ranging from thermal management to communications systems.

A new experiment involving researchers with the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and Yale University now demonstrates that by using light to mediate the interaction between two mechanical systems, they can create a controllable one-way channel for the flow of vibrational energy and heat.

The study, published today in Nature, was based on…

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