David Kirkpatrick

July 16, 2008

The Casimir force and nanotechnology

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:54 am

I first blogged on the Casimir force, stiction and nanotech a couple of weeks ago (find that post here and check out the first item) Here’s some updated news out of the University of Florida. Physicists there have found a way to reduce quantum stickiness.

From the second link:

What seems like magic is known as the Casimir force, and it has been well-documented in experiments. The cause goes to the heart of quantum physics: Seemingly empty space is not actually empty but contains virtual particles associated with fluctuating electromagnetic fields. These particles push the plates from both the inside and the outside. However, only virtual particles of shorter wavelengths — in the quantum world, particles exist simultaneously as waves — can fit into the space between the plates, so that the outward pressure is slightly smaller than the inward pressure. The result is the plates are forced together.

Now, University of Florida physicistshave found they can reduce the Casimir force by altering the surface of the plates. The discovery could prove useful as tiny “microelectromechanical” systems — so-called MEMS devices that are already used in a wide array of consumer products — become so small they are affected by quantum forces.

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