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Title: A system for probing Casimir energy corrections to the condensation energy

In this article, we present a nanoelectromechanical system (NEMS) designed to detect changes in the Casimir energy. The Casimir effect is a result of the appearance of quantum fluctuations in an electromagnetic vacuum. Previous experiments have used nano- or microscale parallel plate capacitors to detect the Casimir force by measuring the small attractive force these fluctuations exert between the two surfaces. In this new set of experiments, we aim to directly detect the shifts in the Casimir energy in a vacuum due to the presence of the metallic parallel plates, one of which is a superconductor. A change in the Casimir energy of this configuration is predicted to shift the superconducting transition temperature (Tc) because of the interaction between it and the superconducting condensation energy. In our experiment, we take a superconducting film, carefully measure its transition temperature, bring a conducting plate close to the film, create a Casimir cavity, and then measure the transition temperature again. The expected shifts are smaller than the normal shifts one sees in cycling superconducting films to cryogenic temperatures, so using a NEMS resonator in situ is the only practical way to obtain accurate, reproducible data. Using a thin Pb film and opposing more » Au surface, we observe no shift inTc>12 µK down to a minimum spacing of ~70 nm at zero applied magnetic field.

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Microsystems & Nanoengineering
Nature Publishing Group
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National Science Foundation
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