Casimir effect: from surface and materials science to table-top laboratory cosmology

Thursday, September 20, 2012 to Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Infotech Oulu Doctoral Program

Casimir effect: from surface and materials science to table-top laboratory cosmology

Lecturer: Professor G. Palasantzas, Nanostructured Materials & Interfaces (NMI), University of Groningen, Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, the Netherlands

Date: September 20-25, 2012
Room: TS3110

September 20
10:00 – 12:00 am: Introduction to Casimir physics, Lifshitz theory for Casimir / van der Waals forces between real materials, Thermal effects, surface excitons - short-range forces

September 21
10:00 – 12:00 am: Influence of optical properties on Casimir-Lifshitz forces: From attraction to repulsion

September 24
10:00 – 12:00 am: Influence of geometry-surface morphology on Casimir-Lifshitz forces with applications to MEMS actuation-stiction

September 25
10:00 – 12:00 am: Special topics related to Cosmology & surface electrostatics

Note: During the lectures I will illustrate and solve also problems that help understanding the presented topics better


The fundamental nature of the void, or empty space, has exercised philosophers back to ancient Greek times. The startling realisation that has emerged since the birth of modern physics is that the void, that is, the complete absence of any detectable particles or energy is far from empty. Theoretically this conclusion originated around 1900 from the work of Max Planck and the early pioneers of quantum theory. A consequence of the quantum behaviour of electromagnetic fields is that each field mode contains intrinsic ‘zero point’ energy when it is not vibrating. Thus a field containing no photons-empty space-has a huge intrinsic energy density. The zero-point energy is not just an arbitrary constant but has real observable consequences. Indeed, two mirrors facing each other in vacuum are mutually attracted to each other by the disturbance of quantum vacuum fluctuations – a phenomenon first predicted in 1948 by the Dutch theoretical physicist Hendrik Casimir. Nevertheless, the last ten years the Casimir field has attracted significant attention and has focused on one hand on observations of the Casimir force in complex geometries and novel materials such as phase-change, nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, liquids, metamaterials etc. with a view to applications, especially in nanomachines. On the other hand there is a focus on fundamentals such as what the force can tell us about the quantum vacuum, for example, any possible relationship between zero-point energy and cosmological observations such as dark energy, and departures from Newtonian gravity at sub-micron separations. In my lectures I will cover these topics and explain why both material and surface science play important role on Casimir forces and what the implications are in nanotechnology and fundamental physics.

More information: Jari Juuti, Heli Jantunen


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Last updated: 20.8.2012