Electro-mechanical Casimir effect

Mikel Sanz1, Witlef Wieczorek2, Simon Gröblacher3, and Enrique Solano1,4,5

1Department of Physical Chemistry, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Apartado 644, E-48080 Bilbao, Spain
2Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience, Chalmers University of Technology, Kemivägen 9, SE-41296 Göteborg, Sweden
3Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, Delft University of Technology, Lorentzweg 1, 2628CJ Delft, The Netherlands
4IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, Maria Diaz de Haro 3, E-48013 Bilbao, Spain
5Department of Physics, Shanghai University, 200444 Shanghai, China

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The dynamical Casimir effect is an intriguing phenomenon in which photons are generated from vacuum due to a non-adiabatic change in some boundary conditions. In particular, it connects the motion of an accelerated mechanical mirror to the generation of photons. While pioneering experiments demonstrating this effect exist, a conclusive measurement involving a mechanical generation is still missing. We show that a hybrid system consisting of a piezoelectric mechanical resonator coupled to a superconducting cavity may allow to electro-mechanically generate measurable photons from vacuum, intrinsically associated to the dynamical Casimir effect. Such an experiment may be achieved with current technology, based on film bulk acoustic resonators directly coupled to a superconducting cavity. Our results predict a measurable photon generation rate, which can be further increased through additional improvements such as using superconducting metamaterials.

Quantum mechanics predicts that virtual particles can emerge from vacuum. This phenomenon, known as quantum fluctuations, is a cornerstone to explaining key effects in nature. The dynamical Casimir effect is an intriguing phenomenon which connects the motion of an accelerated mechanical mirror to the generation of photons. While pioneering experiments about this effect exist, a conclusive measurement involving a mechanical movement of the mirror is still missing. In this Article, we show that a hybrid system consisting of a mechanical resonator coupled to a superconducting cavity may allow to electro-mechanically generate measurable photons from vacuum. Additionally, we also identify the technological challenges which should be faced to improve the process.

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