Calculating quantum vacuum forces in nanostructures

February 8, 2013

(—One of the surprising predictions of quantum mechanics is that uncharged conductors can attract each other over small distances, even in empty space. While the resulting "Casimir force" has been accurately measured and calculated for simple flat conductors, researchers from the Department of Energy, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology have solved the much more complicated problem of calculating this force between metal plates with complicated periodic nanoscale structures on their surfaces.

This type of surface nanostructuring is currently being explored in order to control the Casimir force in microscopic mechanical sensors, actuators, and electrical relay devices.

The Casimir force has been notoriously difficult to calculate for complicated structures because an infinite number of electromagnetic quantum vacuum fluctuations have to be taken into account. Previous methods took weeks of computer time to carefully combine the results from numerically solving Maxwell's equations‑a standard set of equations describing the physics of electromagnetism‑thousands of times, and were prone to numerical errors.

The researchers have now analytically pre-calculated a series of eigenmodes, or exact solutions for specific cases, that can be combined much more simply to produce the force for any particular periodic . This analytical calculation also gives simple insight into how the force behaves in various important situations.

The researchers expect the analytical techniques they have developed will have broader applications for calculating other forces induced by fluctuations, including thermal emissions and near-field heat transfer. They are now applying these techniques to understand the results of recent experiments on nanostructured surfaces.

Explore further: Argonne scientists to control attractive force for nanoelectromechanical systems

More information: Quasianalytical modal approach for computing Casimir interactions in periodic nanostructures, F. Intravaia, P. S. Davids, R. S. Decca, V. A. Aksyuk, D. López, and D. A. R. Dalvit, Physical Review A 86, 042101 (2012).

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3 / 5 (2) Feb 09, 2013
(—One of the surprising predictions of quantum mechanics is that uncharged conductors can attract each other over small distances, even in empty space.....

Actually, we can make a simple scientific prove that space is not empty! Then it will let us to understand how 'the surprising predictions of quantum mechanics'works as detail below...
1 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2013
Conductors are pushed together by "virtual" particles that comprise the quantum vacuum.

The fact that they are doing the computations indicate that they understand the origin of the force.
3 / 5 (2) Feb 10, 2013
One of the surprising predictions of quantum mechanics is that uncharged conductors can attract each other over small distances, even in empty space
The theory of Casimir force has absolutely nothing to do with quantum mechanics - it even doesn't use any of its postulates. It's usually derived and calculated with using of Maxwell's theory - even the above article mentions it later!
not rated yet Feb 11, 2013
Your link http://en.m.wikip...r_effect says that the effect comes from quantum field theory. What did you mean to point out? There are a few theories mentioned throughout the article.

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