Schedule Oct 10, 2001
The `Friction' of Vacuum, and other Fluctuation-Induced Forces
Dr. Mehran Kardar, ITP & MIT
The static Casimir effect describes the force between conducting plates due to quantum fluctuations of the electromagnetic (EM) field. Thermal fluctuations of correlated fluids (such as critical mixtures, super-fluids, or liquid crystals) are also modified by boundaries, resulting in forces that effect wetting and layering phenomena. A nice demonstration is provided by the jump in height of a wetting layer at the super-fluid transition of helium. Surface roughness is naturally present in the latter experiment, while surface modulations are also artificially introduced to probe the shape dependence of the Casimir force. We develop a path integral method to study interactions between such deformed surfaces. As a byproduct, we can address dynamic Casimir phenomena which arise for moving plates. In particular: the effective mass of a plate now depends on its shape and becomes anisotropic; there is dissipation and damping dependent upon shape and direction of motion, accompanied by emission of photons.

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