Thermal corrections to the Casimir effect
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionNew Journal of Physics 2006, 8:1-20 10.1088/1367-2630/8/10/236
The Casimir effect, reflecting quantum vacuum fluctuations in the electromagnetic field in a region with material boundaries, has been studied both theoretically and experimentally since 1948. The forces between dielectric and metallic surfaces both plane and curved have been measured at the 10–1% level in a variety of room temperature experiments, and remarkable agreement with the zero-temperature theory has been achieved. In fitting the data various corrections due to surface roughness, patch potentials, curvature, and temperature have been incorporated. It is the latter that is the subject of the present paper. We point out that, in fact, no temperature dependence has yet been detected, and that the experimental situation is still too fluid to permit conclusions about thermal corrections to the Casimir effect. Theoretically, there are subtle issues concerning thermodynamics and electrodynamics which have resulted in disparate predictions concerning the nature of these corrections. However, a general consensus has seemed to emerge that suggests that the temperature correction to the Casimir effect is relatively large, and should be observable in future experiments involving surfaces separated at the few micrometre scale.