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Experiment and theory in the Casimir effect

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Casimir effect is the attractive force which acts between two plane parallel, closely spaced, uncharged, metallic plates in vacuum. This phenomenon was predicted theoretically in 1948 and reliably investigated experimentally only in recent years. In fact, the Casimir force is similar to the familiar van der Waals force in the case of relatively large separations when the relativistic effects come into play. We review the most important experiments on measuring the Casimir force by means of torsion pendulum, atomic force microscope and micromechanical torsional oscillator. Special attention is paid to the puzzle of the thermal Casimir force, i.e. to the apparent violation of the third law of thermodynamics when the Lifshitz theory of dispersion forces is applied to real metals. Thereafter we discuss the role of the Casimir force in nanosystems including the stiction phenomenon, actuators, and interaction of hydrogen atoms with carbon nanotubes. The applications of the Casimir effect for constraining predictions of extra-dimensional unification schemes and other physics beyond the standard model are also considered.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: North-West Technical University, Millionnaya St. 5, St Petersburg, 191065, Russia 2: Noncommercial Partnership ‘Scientific Instruments', Tverskaya St. 11, Moscow, 103905, Russia

Publication date: 2006-05-01

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