Project Lead: Remo Garattini
Division: Engineering & Physical Sciences
Group: General Relativity Group
Macroscopic Casimir Energy: A Possible Power Source for Interstellar Flight. It is known that Zero Point Energy appears when quantum fluctuations are considered in a field theory (electromagnetic, gravitational, etc…). This potential source of energy has been measured in the context of the electromagnetic field and it is known as Casimir energy. This effect has now been verified by precise measurements and has been applied to the fabrication of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). One of the properties of the Casimir energy is that the DE is negative and therefore the associated force is attractive. This feature is fundamental for the existence of traversable wormholes. However the energy scale for the usual electromagnetic devices is small. One purpose of the project is to study the effect of a ”gravitational Casimir effect” with the hope of realizing traversable wormholes which can be used for interstellar flight.
Recently it has been proved that the calculations indicated that the Casimir energy may change its sign depending not only on the boundary conditions but also on geometry and topology of the configuration. About the dependence of the Casimir force on the boundary conditions, we know that the Casimir force is still attractive for two parallel infinitely permeable plates (associated to Neumann-Neumann boundary conditions), which is identical to Casimir’s original result. However, the Casimir force between a perfectly conducting plate and an infinitely permeable one (associated to Dirichlet-Neumann boundary conditions) is repulsive. This property defines the Casimir piston. Of course this pure theoretical feature must be reconsidered for huge systems like space ships to see if macroscopic effects can be observed.