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Home > News > Physicist Discovers How To Make Quantum Foam In A Test Tube

January 27th, 2011

Physicist Discovers How To Make Quantum Foam In A Test Tube

Abstract:
Nobody is quite sure what laws of physics govern spacetime on the smallest scale, that's over the Planck length of about 10^-35 metres. However, our best guess is that quantum mechanics must somehow prevail. And if that's the case then Heisenberg's uncertainty principle must play an important role.

This principle implies that to discover anything about a region of space on that scale, we would have to use energies so high that they would create a black hole. (That's why it doesn't make sense to think of anything smaller.)

Now, because these black holes can exist, quantum mechanics suggests that they do exist, constantly leaping in and out of existence at the Planck scale.

These "virtual black holes" give spacetime a certain strange structure at the Planck scale. For want of a better word, physicists call it quantum foam.

So what's this got to do with metamaterials? Smolyaninov points out that metamaterials are only transparent for photons of a specific wavelength when their dielectric permittivity is engineered to be below some critical value.

Should it rise above this value, the material would suddenly become opaque.

So his idea is to create a metamaterial in which the dielectric permittivity is just blow this critical value. Then any thermal fluctuations inside the material ought to raise the permittivity, making the material opaque in that region.

Source:
technologyreview.com

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