Casimir Light as a Probe of Vacuum Fluctuation Amplification

Project: Monitored by Research Administration

Project Details

Grant Program

Faculty Development Competitive Research Grant Program 2018-2020

Project Description

One of the most extraordinary predictions of quantum field theory is that the vacuum of space is not empty. Indeed, quantum fields in the vacuum are alive with virtual particles emanating in and out of existence. While initially a curiosity, it is now known that these vacuum fluctuations have measurable effects, for instance, the attractive force for two closely held uncharged plates (Casimir effect, 1948) or the Lamb shift of atomic spectra (Nobel Prize, 1955). The usual renormalization techniques used in this context to handle divergences are now central to our basic understanding of nature. However, many of the well-known vacuum effects provide only indirect evidence for the existence of vacuum fluctuations. Early investigations revolved around how it might instead be possible to more directly observe the virtual particles that compose the quantum vacuum. Yet, despite many years of research, amplifications of these quantum vacuum fluctuations to real particles are still an ongoing mystery. One clue was found nearly half a century ago, when (Moore, 1970) suggested that a mirror undergoing relativistic motion could convert virtual photons into directly observable real photons. This effect was later named the dynamical Casimir effect (DCE). Using the moving mirror model we have obtained the simplest solution to the DCE for the first time.

"Es ist immer angenehm, über strenge Lösungen einfacher Form zu verfügen." (It is always pleasant to have exact solutions in simple form at your disposal.) – Karl Schwarzschild, 1916.

In this project we will investigate how this and other related solutions can be used to understand the physics of the DCE. The solution is a multi-disciplinary tool to probe unknown and fascinating areas of laboratory physics and astrophysics related to acceleration radiation, cosmological expansion, black hole evaporation and the light from accelerated boundaries in table-top experiments.

We will produce accurate predictions of the particle count and energy emission from the DCE, through the use of state-of-the-art computer simulations and mathematical techniques. These tools will find applications in a wide range of scientific contexts and will ultimately benefit the economic development of Kazakhstan. The simulations will be performed both locally in Astana and internationally, with emphasis on engaging opportunities for students on numerous fronts and challenges. The educational aim is to help catalyze and increase the intellectual horsepower of the next generation of Kazakh leaders as problem solvers.

This will highlight Nazarbayev University and Kazakhstan on an international level and enhance the scientific ties of the University. The proposed work will be performed in collaboration with other research teams in world-renowned institutions such as the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, University of California at Berkeley, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Effective start/end date3/20/1812/31/20


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