Scientists can use some forces to manipulate materials. There's acoustic tweezers, which use the force of acoustic radiation to control tiny objects. Optical tweezers made of lasers exploit the force of light. Not content with that, now physicists have made a device to manipulate materials using the force of… nothingness.
To make it clear, when we say “nothingness”, the void of space is not really nothing. There is a force from space itself in the vacuum. It is generally believed that it is this kind of spatial tension that opposes the gravitational force in the universe and causes the universe to accelerate its expansion. To be more specific, scientists use the attractive force that arises between two surfaces in a vacuum - known as Casimir force.
This new research not only provides a method to use it for non-contact object manipulation, but also provides means of measurement. The implication span multiple fields, from chemistry and gravitational wave astronomy all the way down to something fundamental – the science of measurement.
Michael Tobar, a physicist at the University of Western Australia, explained: “If you can measure and manipulate the Casimir force on an object, then we will be able to increase the sensitivity of the force and reduce mechanical loss, with the potential to impact the future direction of science and technology."
The Casimir force was first predicted in 1948 by the Dutch theoretical physicist Hendrik Casimir and was experimentally proven in 1997.
Casimir predicts that due to contrast in quantum fluctuations in the electromagnetic field, there will be a weak attractive force between two conductive plates in a vacuum.
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