Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > News > Research in a Vacuum: DARPA Tries to Tap Elusive Casmir Effect for Breakthrough Technology

October 12th, 2009

Research in a Vacuum: DARPA Tries to Tap Elusive Casmir Effect for Breakthrough Technology

Abstract:
Named for a Dutch physicist, the Casimir effect governs interactions of matter with the energy that is present in a vacuum. Success in harnessing this force could someday help researchers develop low-friction ballistics and even levitating objects that defy gravity. For now, the U.S. Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a two-year, $10-million project encouraging scientists to work on ways to manipulate this quirk of quantum electrodynamics.

Nanoscale design is the most likely place to start and is also the arena where levitation could emerge. Materials scientists working to build tiny machines called microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) struggle with surface interactions, called van der Waals forces, that can make nanomaterials sticky to the point of permanent adhesion, a phenomenon known as "stiction". To defeat stiction, many MEMS devices are coated with Teflon or similar low-friction substances or are studded with tiny springs that keep the surfaces apart. Materials that did not require such fixes could make nanotechnology more reliable. Such materials could skirt another problem posed by adhesion: Because surface stickiness at the nanoscale is much greater than it is for larger objects, MEMS designers resort to making their devices relatively stiff. That reduces adhesion (stiff structures do not readily bend against each other), but it reduces flexibility and increases power demands.

Under certain conditions, manipulating the Casimir effect could create repellant forces between nanoscale surfaces. Hong Tang and his colleagues at Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science sold DARPA on their proposal to assess Casimir forces between miniscule silicon crystals, like those that make up computer chips. "Then we're going to engineer the structure of the surface of the silicon device to get some unusual Casimir forces to produce repulsion," he says. In theory, he adds, that could mean building a device capable of levitation.

Such claims emit a strong scent of fantasy, but researchers say incremental successes could open the door to significant breakthroughs in key areas of nanotechnology, and perhaps larger structures. "What I can contribute is to understand the role of the Casimir force in real working devices, such as microwave switches, MEMS oscillators and gyroscopes, that normally are made of silicon crystals, not perfect metals," Tang says.

Source:
scientificamerican.com

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology: Physicists demonstrate how heating up a quantum system can be used as a universal probe for exotic states of matter August 22nd, 2017

A Tougher Tooth: A new dental restoration composite developed by UCSB scientists proves more durable than the conventional material August 22nd, 2017

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet August 17th, 2017

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice: Rice University materials scientists create flat sandwich of sulfur, molybdenum and selenium August 14th, 2017

Possible Futures

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology: Physicists demonstrate how heating up a quantum system can be used as a universal probe for exotic states of matter August 22nd, 2017

A Tougher Tooth: A new dental restoration composite developed by UCSB scientists proves more durable than the conventional material August 22nd, 2017

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

MEMS

First Capacitive Transducer with 13nm Gap July 27th, 2017

Bosch announces high-performance MEMS acceleration sensors for wearables June 27th, 2017

Smart multi-layered magnetic material acts as an electric switch: New study reveals characteristic of islands of magnetic metals between vacuum gaps, displaying tunnelling electric current March 1st, 2017

Engineers shrink microscope to dime-sized device February 17th, 2017

Announcements

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology: Physicists demonstrate how heating up a quantum system can be used as a universal probe for exotic states of matter August 22nd, 2017

A Tougher Tooth: A new dental restoration composite developed by UCSB scientists proves more durable than the conventional material August 22nd, 2017

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Military

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice: Rice University materials scientists create flat sandwich of sulfur, molybdenum and selenium August 14th, 2017

Moving at the Speed of Light: University of Arizona selected for high-impact, industrial demonstration of new integrated photonic cryogenic datalink for focal plane arrays: Program is major milestone for AIM Photonics August 10th, 2017

Sensing technology takes a quantum leap with RIT photonics research: Office of Naval Research funds levitated optomechanics project August 10th, 2017

Aerospace/Space

The July 23 close fly-by of asteroid 2017 BS5 is explored in a Q&A with Dr. John S. Lewis, chief scientist at Deep Space Industries July 23rd, 2017

National Space Society Governor Scott Pace Named to National Space Council as Executive Secretary July 18th, 2017

National Space Society Supports VP Pence's Call for Constant Low-Earth Orbit Human Presence Leading to the Settlement of Space July 13th, 2017

Thinking thin brings new layering and thermal abilities to the semiconductor industry: In a breakthrough for the semiconductor industry, researchers demonstrate a new layer transfer technique called "controlled spalling" that creates many thin layers from a single gallium nitride July 11th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project