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Casimir Effect

Peter Morgan - UMass, Amherst, June 2011

Since 1948 several hundred papers devoted to the
Casimir effect have appeared in the literature. The
appearance of Casimir forces between rigid bodies is
essentially the only macroscopic manifestation of the
vacuum structure of quantized fields. It is therefore
interesting to consider the effect for various
configurations plates, spheres, wedges, cylinders etc.
Investigations of Casimir forces between macroscopic
bodies includes cases with ideal and semi-permeable
walls, rough walls, and cases with moving boundaries.
The Casimir effect was also investigated for temperatures
other than absolute zero (Bordag, 2001).
Casimir Effect aka
Van der Waals interaction (one part of, between two
molecules Keesom, Debye, London)
London force
Dispersion force
Induced dipole induced dipole interaction
Casimir-Polder force (atom-atom and atom-wall
Casimir force (interaction between two macroscopic
Quantum or charge fluctuations
Zero-point energy
Vacuum energy
Casimir and Polder
Casimir Force Background I
Molecules attract one another when close together, even if they have no
electric charge or dipole moment van der Waals, c.1900
London QM description between two molecules, 1937
Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir predicted in 1948 that two mirrors few m
apart experience an attractive force, due to vacuum fluctuations, F/A =
2c/240d4 , A = area of plates
Mirror = ideal metal - characterized by perfect reflectivity at all frequencies,
perfect conductor
Casimir subtracted the infinite vacuum energy between the plates from the
infinite vacuum energy of the quantized electromagnetic field in free space
finite result above difference in radiation pressure
E.g., two mirrors with area 1 cm2 separated by a distance d = 1 m
attractive Casimir force of about 10-7 N ~ weight of a water droplet with dia
0.5mm. With d = 10nm F/A ~ 1 atm
Becomes important force in MEMS devices can have useful (harness) as
well as problematic (sticking) effects
Background II
Macroscopic quantum effect - example of a QED effect directly
influencing a macroscopic, classical, apparatus. There is no force
between neutral plates in classical electrodynamics.
Finite speed of light retardation effects (Casimir & Polder,
1948). For two molecules ~ 1/r7
For separation range a < 1 m the retarded interatomic potential
is not applicable.
Vacuum fluctuations - particle antiparticle pairs, Et ~ h.
Vacuum is full of fluctuating electromagnetic waves - come in all
possible wavelengths.
Recall harmonic oscillator, En = (n + ), n = 0, 1, 2, At
absolute zero, ground state, E0 =
Range of s between plates due to vacuum fluctuations < s
outside attractive force between plates Casimir force
Background III
Can be both attractive as well as repulsive (depending on
geometry, separation, materials)
Note - get vacuum polarization when external em field is
Theoretical tools include regularization, normalization, heat
kernel expansion
Integrals diverge regularize by introducing a frequency cutoff a la
Poles result from the heat kernel expansion inserted into the zeta
function (another lecture on the mathematics?)
Sum over Matsubara frequencies, (i), = 2nkT/, n = 0, 1, 2,
Vacuum fluctuations give rise to following effects (QED):
Casimir effect
Spontaneous emission
Lamb shift
Anomalous magnetic moment of electron
General requirements for the Casimir force
plate surfaces completely free of chemical impurities
and dust particles
precise and reproducible measurement of the
separation between the two surfaces
low electrostatic charges on the surface
Modern precision measurements (last 20 years)
Torsion pendulum
Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)
Micromechanical torsional oscillator
Actual Measurements
Derjaguin and Abrikosova (1957)
Flat glass plate and sphere
Direct measurement of the molecular attraction of solid
bodies, Sov. Phys. JETP 3, 819, 1957
Marcus Spaarnay (1958) at Philips in Eindhoven
Two parallel conducting plates - attractive force not
inconsistent with the 1/d4 prediction - but with 100%
F = A2c/240d4
van Blockland and Overbeek (1978) J. Chem. Soc.,
Faraday Trans. 1 74,
van der Waals forces between objects covered with a
chrome layer - no errors given(!)
Actual Measurements (cont)
Steve Lamoreaux (1997) now at Yale landmark experiment
Flat plate and sphere - measurements agreed with theory to an
accuracy of 5-10%
Used copper and gold coated flat plate and sphere
F = R(2 c/240d3), independent of plate area
U. Mohideen and A. Roy (1998) UC Riverside
Used sphere and flat plate
1% error
Decca et al, Tests of new physics from precise measurements
of the Casimir pressure between two gold-coated plates
Error of 0.2% at d =160nm
Mohideen et al - Experiment
Taking into account corrections up to the 4th order
both in surface roughness and finite conductivity
1% agreement between theory and experiment
Conclusions both surface roughness and finite
conductivity corrections should be taken into
account in precision Casimir force measurements
with space separations of the order 1m and less
U. Mohideen and A. Roy, Precision Measurement of
the Casimir Force from 0.1 to 0.9 m, Phys. Rev. Lett.
81 4549 (1998)
Mohideen and Roy - Experiment

Schematic diagram of the experimental setup

Mohideen and Roy - Results

Measured Casimir force as a function of plate-sphere separation - open

squares. Theoretical Casimir force with corrections due to surface roughness
and finite conductivity - solid line, without any correction - dashed line.
Mohideen and Roy roughness

4th order correction for surface roughness

Frequency dependence
Real mirrors do not reflect all frequencies perfectly
Frequency-dependent reflection coefficients of the mirrors
have to be taken into account
Theory given by, for example, Lifshitz (1956), Schwinger
(1970), Feinberg (1978)
Measured Casimir force between real metallic mirrors 0.1
m apart is half the theoretical value predicted for perfect
Have both reflection from and absorption at metallic
Chromium has two strong absorption bands around 600 nm
which make about 40% of the total force (Bordag, 2001)
FC = FC()
Surface Roughness
Real mirrors, of course, are not perfectly smooth
F(d) = F0(d)[1 + 6( ) + ], Ar = the average roughness amplitude

Lateral Casimir force - corrugated mirrors the surfaces of which were
sinusoidally curved
Opportunities for the actuation of lateral motion (tangential to
surface) in MEM systems based entirely on the vacuum effects of
quantum electrodynamics
Chen et al, Demonstration of the Lateral Casimir Force, Phys. Rev. Lett.
88, 101801 (2002)
P.J. van Zwol et al, Influence of random roughness on the Casimir force
at small separations, arxiv.org/0712.1893 (2007)
Mehran Kadar et al at MIT (2011) have calculated a theoretical value
for the force between two perfectly reflecting corrugated mirrors -
found good agreement with experiment
Conductivity Effects
Lifshitz (1956) gave Casimir force between two dielectric bodies as
2c 1 2
F/A = 240d4 0 (0), where (0) is a tabulated function
+1 2

Fluctuating electromagnetic field that is always present in both the

interior and the exterior of any medium. Reproduces the results
obtained by London and by Casimir and Polder
Perfect conductor, 0 . Recapture Casimir-Polder result
Ideal conductors - only the surface layer of atoms interacts with the
electromagnetic field
Finite conductivity finite penetration depth or skin depth,
So Casimir force depends on type of metal - Drude model or free
electron model of metals
F(d) = F0(d)[1 + f(p)] , p = metal plasma frequency
Drude Model
First proposed in 1900 by Paul Drude to explain the transport
properties of electrons in materials
Purely classical model - treats both electrons and ions as solid spheres
Conductor is characterized by a plasma frequency, p, and a skin
depth, ()
p = frequency above which the conductivity goes to zero
= skin depth is a measure of the depth at which the current density
falls to 1/e of its value near the surface; decreases with increasing freq;
aka attenuation length
p2 = e2n/0me
= 2/c2, = ne2 /me( - i)
n = number of conduction electrons per unit volume
= damping parameter for the Drude oscillators
P. Drude, "Zur Elektronentheorie der metalle". Annalen der Physik 306
3 (1900)
Free Electron Model
Models the behaviour of valence electrons in a metallic
Combines the classical Drude model with quantum
mechanical Fermi-Dirac statistics
Ion cores surrounded by a sea of electrons
Conduction electrons are not allowed to get close to the
ion cores due to the Pauli exclusion principle - orbitals
closest to the ion core are already occupied by the core
Furthermore, the core electrons shield the ion charge
magnitude seen by the conduction electrons. The result is
an effective nuclear charge experienced by the conduction
electrons which is significantly reduced from the actual
nuclear charge.
Temperature Dependence
Experiments are never carried out at absolute zero
At nonzero temperatures, the fluctuations also have a thermal contribution -
quantum and thermal fluctuations.
Thermal fluctuations at room temperature are only important at distances
above 1 m, below which the wavelength of the fluctuations is too big to fit
inside the cavity (Bordag, 2001)
Temperature dependence must be included in calculations of the force at
separations above 1 m
In general, the quantum fluctuations dominate the force at small separations,
while at separations large compared to the thermal wavelength T, thermal
effects prevail (Kruger, 2011)
F(d) = F0(d)[1 + 2 f(T) + ] => attraction > 0 K case (see, for example,

Obrecht, 2007).
In conclusion, we have made the first measurement discerning the
temperature dependence of the Casimir-Polder force. The strength of this
force was shown to increase by a factor of nearly 3 as the substrate
temperature doubles.
Other models?
Is Casimir effect due to vacuum fluctuations or solely
due to material properties?
Casimir effects can be formulated and Casimir forces
can be computed without reference to zero-point
energies (source theory - Schwinger, 1978)
Concept of zero point fluctuations is a heuristic and
calculational aid in the description of the Casimir
effect, but not a necessity (Jaffe, 2005)
Uses Drude model of metals
Zero point fluctuation approach currently won out
derivation is mathematically much simpler (than 4th
order perturbation theory).
Current Research
Casimir force in nanoscale device fabrication - fundamental in the
design and construction of MEMS and NEMS (Micro and Nano
Electro Mechanical Systems)
Corrections to the Casimir effect due to various factors as finite
conductivity of the boundary metal, surface roughness, and
nonzero temperature
Both static and dynamic micromachines actuated by the normal
Casimir force have been demonstrated
Adhesion and sticking of moving parts in micromachines due to the
Casimir effect have been investigated stiction. Influences the
performance and fabrication of nanodevices
Growing interest in calculating Casimir Forces for complicated
A complete understanding of the material and shape dependences
of the Casimir effect is necessary to improve the design,
performance and yield of nanodevices.
MEMS device
MEMS - illustrations
Two parallel plates
Sphere plate
Two spheres
Two cylinders (e.g., micro- and nanotubes)
Many (three) body - numerical
Different temperatures
e.g., 0K, and 300K
Curved surfaces, often use Proximity Force Approximation -
sphere and plate surfaces are well approximated by a
collection of infinitesimal parallel plates
Not valid for larger separations and for surfaces that are not
Emig & Kardar - MIT
Extended and generalized calculations to include:
n arbitrarily shaped objects, whose surfaces may be smooth
or rough or may include edges and cusps
objects with arbitrary linear electromagnetic response,
including frequency-dependent
lossy electric permittivity and magnetic permeability tensors
objects separated by vacuum or by a medium with uniform,
frequency-dependent isotropic permittivity and permeability
zero or nonzero temperature
and objects outside of one another or enclosed in each other
Rahi, S.J., Emig, T., Graham, N., Jaffe, R.L., Kardar, M.,
Scattering theory approach to electrodynamic Casimir forces,
Phys. Rev. D 80, 085021 (2009)
Scattering theory approach
Characterizes each object by its electromagnetic scattering amplitude
Translation matrix separations and orientations of the objects
The scattering amplitudes and translation matrices are combined in a
simple algorithm that allows efficient numerical and, in some cases,
analytical calculations of Casimir forces
T-operator approach objects can have any shape or material
properties, as long as the scattering amplitude can be computed in a
multipole expansion
Concrete implementation of the proposal emphasized by Schwinger
Translation matrices for common separable coordinate systems,
obtained from the free Greens function, are applied in the Casimir
force calculations
For small separations, sufficient accuracy can only be obtained if the
calculation is taken to very high partial wave order
e.g., as two spheres come into contact an infinite number of spherical
waves are needed to capture the dominant contribution.
The Casimir effect has become the subject of diverse
studies of general physical interest in a variety of fields. It
is equally interesting and important for Quantum Field
Theory, Condensed Matter Physics, Gravitation,
Astrophysics and Cosmology, Atomic Physics, and
Mathematical Physics. Currently the Casimir effect has
been advanced as a new powerful test for hypothetical
long-range interactions, including corrections to
Newtonian gravitational law at small distances, predicted
by the unified gauge theories, supersymmetry,
supergravity and string theory. It is also gaining in
technological importance in vital applications such as in
nanoelectromechanical devices and biophysics.
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