Scientists at the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Wako, and co-workers at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU), have shown for the first time that the Casimir force has a complex dependence on temperature. They propose a related experiment that could clarify the theory around this important interaction, which has widespread applications in physics and astronomy, and could eventually be exploited in nano-sized electrical and mechanical systems.
“As the temperature increases, metal objects in a vacuum experience two competing effects,” explains Sergey Savel’ev from RIKEN and Loughborough University in the UK. “They lose some of their electrical conductivity, which tends to cause a decrease in the Casimir force. At the same time they are bombarded with more radiation pressure from the thermal heat waves, and this increases the Casimir force.”
Nori and co-workers derived the temperature dependence for Casimir attractions between a thin film and a thick flat plate, and between a thin film and a large metal sphere. They found that the Casimir force will tend to decrease near room temperature, but can increase again at higher temperatures as the thermal radiation effects take over.