Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Towards NEMS

Semiconductor International reports on work at the Argonne National Lab in the US which tries to harness the Casimir effect: "Scientists to Conquer Casimir Effect, Enable NEMS".
[...]

The researchers' goal is to do the most precise characterization of this force to learn exactly how material properties influence its function, which is important in trying to eliminate it. The Argonne group received a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to try to design mechanisms to control it. The Casimir Effect produces an attractive force. If it were possible to make it repulsive, it might be used to actuate NEMS devices. "This is an attractive option, because then you could use quantum mechanics to move nanoscale objects," Lopez said. "Perhaps it can be the energy source to move these tiny devices."

[...]

A decade ago, the Casimir Effect was an academic curiosity. Today, it is a technological problem, because if NEMS devices are to be used for thousands of applications, it becomes necessary to control the quantum forces that come into play at those scales. Quantum mechanics is quickly becoming quantum engineering.

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