The study aims to delve into a 'void' or empty space in which atoms move, which has a large intrinsic energy density known as zero-point energy
Recent investment by the University of Leicester in the Virtual Microscopy Centre and the Nanoscale Interfaces Centre has put the University in a key position to take a lead in Casimir force measurements in novel geometries.
The Casimir force is a mysterious interaction between objects that arises directly from the quantum properties of the so-called 'void'. Within classical Physics the void is a simple absence of all matter and energy while quantum theory tells us that in fact it is a seething mass of quantum particles that constantly appear into and disappear from our observable universe. This gives the void an unimaginably large energy density.
The research team carrying out this work has received a grant of 800,000 from the European framework 6 NEST (New and Emerging Science and Technology) programme to lead a consortium from three countries (UK, France and Sweden).
The programme, entitled Nanocase, will use the ultra-high vacuum Atomic Force Microscope installed in the Physics and Astronomy Department to make very high precision Casimir force measurements in non-simple cavities and assess the utility of the force in providing a method for contactless transmission in nano-machines.
Chris Binns, Professor of Nanoscience at the University of Leicester explained: "The research will help to overcome a fundamental problem of all nano-machines, that is, machines whose individual components are the size of molecules, which is that at this size everything is 'sticky' and any components that come into contact stick together. If a method can be found to transmit force across a small gap without contact, then it may be possible to construct nano-machines that work freely without gumming up.