Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Boosting the force of empty space: Theorists propose way to amplify force of vacuum fluctuations

Date:
July 22, 2014
Source:
Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna
Summary:
Vacuum fluctuations may be among the most counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum physics. Theorists have now proposed a way to amplify their force. The researchers believe that their proposed enhancement of the power of vacuum fluctuations can have profound implications for understanding Casimir and Van der Waals forces and it may even be used for applications in quantum information processing and other emerging quantum technologies.

Two atoms exchanging a virtual photon. Empty space around them is not as empty as one might think.
Credit: Image courtesy of Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna

Vacuum fluctuations may be among the most counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum physics. Theorists from the Weizmann Institute (Rehovot, Israel) and the Vienna University of Technology propose a way to amplify their force.

Related Articles


Vacuum is not as empty as one might think. In fact, empty space is a bubbling soup of various virtual particles popping in and out of existence -- a phenomenon called "vacuum fluctuations." Usually, such extremely short-lived particles remain completely unnoticed, but in certain cases vacuum forces can have a measurable effect. A team of researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel) and the Vienna University of Technology has now proposed a method of amplifying these forces by several orders of magnitude using a transmission line, channelling virtual photons.

"Borrowing" Energy, but just for a Little While

If you park your car somewhere and later it is gone, that is most probably not due to vacuum fluctuations. Objects do not disappear or reappear, that would violate the law of energy conservation. In the world of quantum physics, however, things are a bit more complicated. "Due to the uncertainty principle, virtual particles can come into existence for a brief period of time," says Igor Mazets from the Vienna University of Technology. "The higher their energy, the faster they will disappear again."

But such virtual particles can have a measurable collective effect. At very short distances, vacuum fluctuations can lead to an attractive force between atoms or molecules -- the Van der Waals forces. Even the ability of a gecko to climb flat surfaces can in part be attributed to vacuum fluctuations and virtual particles. The famous Casimir effect is another example of the power of the vacuum: The physicist Hendrik Casimir calculated in 1948 that two parallel mirrors in empty space will attract each other due to the way they influence the vacuum around them.

Atoms and Photons

Two atoms close to each other will also change the local vacuum around them. If one of them emits a virtual photon, which is almost instantly absorbed by the other, then on any timescale larger than the brief moment of the photon's existence, nothing much has happened -- the total energy is conserved. But the fact that virtual particles can be exchanged modifies the vacuum around the atoms, and this leads to a force.

"Usually, such forces are very hard to measure," says Igor Mazets. "This is partly due to the fact, that such a photon may be emitted into any direction, and the chances of the second atom absorbing it are very small."

But what if the virtual particle has a little help to find its way? Ephraim Shahmoon, Gershon Kurizki (Weizmann Institute of Science) and Igor Mazets calculated what happens to vacuum forces between atoms when they are placed in the vicinity of an electrical transmission line such as a coaxial cable or a coplanar waveguide (a device used in cavity quantum electrodynamics experiments as an open transmission line), cooled to very low temperatures. "In that case, the fluctuations are effectively confined to one dimension," says Igor Mazets. The virtual particles will be forced to go into the direction of the other atom.

In that case, the fluctuation-mediated attraction between the atoms becomes orders of magnitude stronger than in free space. Usually, the force decreases rapidly with increasing distance between the atoms. Due to the transmission line, it falls off with one over the distance cubed, instead of one over the seventh power of the distance, as in the usual case.

The researchers believe that their proposed enhancement of the power of vacuum fluctuations can have profound implications for understanding Casimir and Van der Waals forces and it may even be used for applications in quantum information processing and other emerging quantum technologies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna. "Boosting the force of empty space: Theorists propose way to amplify force of vacuum fluctuations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722091425.htm>.
Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna. (2014, July 22). Boosting the force of empty space: Theorists propose way to amplify force of vacuum fluctuations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722091425.htm
Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna. "Boosting the force of empty space: Theorists propose way to amplify force of vacuum fluctuations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722091425.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) — IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) — Brave Robotics and Asratec teamed with original Transformers toy company Tomy to create a functional 5-foot-tall humanoid robot that can march and fold itself into a 3-foot-long sports car. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A California-based startup has designed new law enforcement technology that aims to automatically alert dispatch when an officer's gun is unholstered and fired. Two law enforcement agencies are currently testing the technology. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins