Torque on birefringent plates induced by quantum fluctuations


JN Munday, D Iannuzzi, Y Barash, and F. Capasso. 2005. “Torque on birefringent plates induced by quantum fluctuations.” Physical Review A, 71, 4.
physreva.71.042102.pdf256 KB


We present detailed numerical calculations of the mechanical torque induced by quantum fluctuations on two parallel birefringent plates with in-plane optical anisotropy, separated by either vacuum or a liquid (ethanol). The torque is found to vary as sin(2 theta), where theta represents the angle between the two optical axes, and its magnitude rapidly increases with decreasing plate separation d. For a 40 mu m diameter disk, made out of either quartz or calcite, kept parallel to a barium titanate plate at d similar or equal to 100 nm, the maximum torque (at theta=pi/4) is of the order of similar or equal to 10(-19) N m. We propose an experiment to observe this torque when the barium titanate plate is immersed in ethanol and the other birefringent disk is placed on top of it. In this case the retarded van der Waals (or Casimir-Lifshitz) force between the two birefringent slabs is repulsive. The disk would float parallel to the plate at a distance where its net weight is counterbalanced by the retarded van der Waals repulsion, free to rotate in response to very small driving torques.
Last updated on 05/29/2020