“The Casimir Effect: Science and Technology”
In its simplest form, the Casimir effect predicts an attractive interaction between two identical, uncharged, perfectly conducting plates held a short distance apart, usually well less than a micron. Classically, if the plates are electrically uncharged and not magnetic, the only attractive force between them is gravity, a vanishingly small effect for microscale objects. What was predicted theoretically by Hendrik Casimir in 1948 and has been seen experimentally many times since, is a force in the range of a few hundred pN when the plates are ~100 nm apart. This is a force arising from the effects of quantum fluctuations of the vacuum and is a fundamentally nanoscale phenomenon that is a clear manifestation of the quantum mechanical nature of the universe. In this talk, I discuss several examples of recent and current progress in the field, both science and technology, including the observation of the effect using MEMS devices, it’s impact on the non-linear dynamics of a nanomechanical system, a search for the Casimir energy and its possible effect on superconducting transitions in Casimir cavities, and possibilities for nanotechnological applications including Casimir-based metrology in physical and biomedical contexts.