Raising the prospects for quantum levitation

April 18, 2012

More than half-a-century ago, the Dutch theoretical physicist Hendrik Casimir calculated that two mirrors placed facing each other in a vacuum would attract. The mysterious force arises from the energy of virtual particles flitting into and out of existence, as described by quantum theory. Now Norio Inui, a scientist from the University of Hyogo in Japan, has predicted that in certain circumstances a reversal in the direction of the so-called Casimir force would be enough to levitate an extremely thin plate. His calculations are published in the American Institute of Physics' (AIP) Journal of Applied Physics.

The Casimir force pushes identical plates together, but changes in the geometry and material properties of one of the plates can reverse the direction of the force. Inui calculated that a nanometer-thick plate made from a material called yttrium iron garnet (YIG) could hover half a micrometer above a gold plate. One key finding is that the repulsive force increases as the YIG plate gets thinner. This is convenient since the weight of the plate, and hence the magnitude of the force needed to levitate it, shrinks in tandem with the thickness. Right now the levitating plates exist solely in the theoretical realm.

As a next step, many key assumptions in the calculations will need to be experimentally tested. If the models stand up to further scrutiny, possible applications could include levitating the gyroscopes in micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and keeping the various components of nanomachines from sticking together.

Explore further: What do Racquel Welch and quantum physics have in common?

More information: "Quantum Levitation of a Thin Magnetodielectric Plate on a Metallic Plate Using the Repulsive Casimir Force" by Norio Inui et al. is published in Journal of Applied Physics. dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3698619

Related Stories

What do Racquel Welch and quantum physics have in common?

June 30, 2006

The University of Leicester is leading a three-nation consortium in a ‘fantastic voyage’ to explore empty space - with potential benefits that have only been explored in the realms of science fiction. The study aims to ...

Researchers see exotic force for first time

January 7, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- For the first time, researchers have measured a long-theorized force that operates at distances so tiny they’re measured in billionths of a meter, which may have important applications in nanotechnology ...

Metamaterials could reduce friction in nanomachines

December 7, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Nanoscale machines expected to have wide application in industry, energy, medicine and other fields may someday operate far more efficiently thanks to important theoretical discoveries concerning the manipulation ...

Researchers create light from 'almost nothing'

June 6, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A group of physicists working out of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, have succeeded in proving what was until now, just theory; and that is, that visible photons could be produced ...

Recommended for you

Understanding nature's patterns with plasmas

August 23, 2016

Patterns abound in nature, from zebra stripes and leopard spots to honeycombs and bands of clouds. Somehow, these patterns form and organize all by themselves. To better understand how, researchers have now created a new ...

Measuring tiny forces with light

August 25, 2016

Photons are bizarre: They have no mass, but they do have momentum. And that allows researchers to do counterintuitive things with photons, such as using light to push matter around.

Light and matter merge in quantum coupling

August 22, 2016

Where light and matter intersect, the world illuminates. Where light and matter interact so strongly that they become one, they illuminate a world of new physics, according to Rice University scientists.

Stretchy supercapacitors power wearable electronics

August 23, 2016

A future of soft robots that wash your dishes or smart T-shirts that power your cell phone may depend on the development of stretchy power sources. But traditional batteries are thick and rigid—not ideal properties for ...

Spherical tokamak as model for next steps in fusion energy

August 24, 2016

Among the top puzzles in the development of fusion energy is the best shape for the magnetic facility—or "bottle"—that will provide the next steps in the development of fusion reactors. Leading candidates include spherical ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Short bloke
not rated yet Apr 20, 2012
In both cases, the Coulomb force (unlike attracting and opposite repelling) is able to operate over the close distance and low mass of the thin sheet against the gravitation force.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.