Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory are developing a way to control the Casimir force, a quantum mechanical force which attracts objects when they are only a hundred nanometers apart.
“As characteristic device dimensions shrink to the nanoscale, the effects of the attractive Casimir force become more pronounced, making very difficult to control nano-devices. This is a technological challenge that needs to be addressed before the full potential of NEMS devices can be demonstrated,” scientist Daniel Lopez said. “The goal is to not only limit its attractive properties, but also to make it repulsive. A repulsive force acting at the nano-scale would allow engineers to design novel NEMS devices capable of frictionless motion through nanolevitation.”
The approach to controlling this force involves nanostructuring the interacting surfaces to tune the effects of the Casimir force.
Argonne National Laboratory was recently selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop mechanisms to control and manipulate the Casimir force. This program will be developed in close partnership with Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) and Los Alamos National Laboratory.