• Aug 12th 2007 at 4:36PM
  • 2
Let's be honest here... when one brings up the gecko in a car related discussion, the first thing that you think of is Geico, right? If your answer was yes, the marketing team for the insurance company gets a high-five from us. But, we are not going to be discussing insurance today, but something much more interesting. Getting back to the gecko lizard for a moment - you are probably familiar with the fact that the lizard can stick to objects which appear to be completely smooth. Recent scientific experiments have indicated that this might be due to the "Casimir force", which is the force that causes atoms to stick together. With the recent advances in nanotechnology, scientists have found that they battle the force from time to time, whenever they need their tiny devices to move instead of staying stationary.
Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr. Thomas Philbin, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, have found a way to reverse the Casimir force, causing objects to repel instead of attract. The research could help pave the way for tiny machines with zero friction, which could have many automotive uses. Additionally, many of you are probably thinking of moving humans via levitation, and the team has thought of that too. At this point, hoverboards are still a ways off. Maybe still in our lifetime? But remember, "hoverboards don't work on water, unless you've got POWER!"

[Source: Telegraph via Engadget]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      Please note that the Casimir effect generates very small forces - usually attractive - between imperfect surfaces at extremely small distances. Follow the link provided in the article for details on the quantum physics and mathematics that describe this effect.

      Theory has long predicted that repulsive forces should be possible for materials with certain exotic properties, but until now no-one has claimed to have found such a material. It's not immediately clear what its general mechanical and thermal properties are or, how it is produced and applied as a coating/additive.

      If the claim is confirmed, it could lead to novel technologies such as miniature coolant pumps embedded directly in sophisticated ICs, e.g. future microprocessors.

      Macroscopically, the primary application would presumably be dry bearings and sliding seals. This is an important niche in tribology, a field that usually relies on inexpensive liquid lubricants. However, these are troublesome in many applications because of contamination (food processing, medical devices, Stirling engines) and/or emissions (engine oil in ICEs, especially two-stroke designs).

      By contrast, the notion that this particular quantum-mechanical discovery could ever enable objects to levitate at macroscopic distances sounds wildly implausible to me. The above image of a spinning top floating in mid-air is totally misleading IMHO.
      • 8 Months Ago
      The Casimir effect and the Casimir–Polder force are physical forces arising from a quantized field. The typical example is of two uncharged metallic plates in a vacuum, placed a few micrometers apart as in a capacitor but without any external electromagnetic field. The causes of the Casimir effect are described by quantum field theory, which states that all of the various fundamental fields, such as the electromagnetic field, must be quantized at each and every point in space. In a simplified view, a "field" in physics may be envisioned as if space were filled with interconnected vibrating balls and springs, and the strength of the field can be visualized as the displacement of a ball from its rest position. There is no something to be worried about it our scientists will be responsible for the research. Mary Contreras http://www.marycontreras.com
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