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A quantum foam absorber: theoretically possible?

  1. Jul 17, 2005 #1
    I’ve read about the quantum foam and that--if the energy of it could be exploited--one cubic centimeter of it could boil the Earth’s oceans. I was wondering, could a device that exploits the energy of the quantum foam be theoretically possible (i.e. within the known laws of science)? And would it have any connection to the fictional quantum singularity reactor I’ve heard in sci-fi stories?

    I’d be grateful for any help from the physics experts here.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2005 #2
    AFAIK, the existance quantum foam is linked to virtual particles. So, I don't think so.

    Don't believe everything you read in SF. :wink: Most SF techology ideas I've heard can be debunked by the laws of therodynamics.

    Maybe this should be moved to the Strings, branes and LQG forum as it is a question about quantum foam?
  4. Jul 17, 2005 #3


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    I used quantum foam in my dish washing machine and I have to say I was disappointed with the result: it leaves traces on the glasswork. So I switched back to the brand that that machine vendor recommended.

  5. Jul 17, 2005 #4

    Don't know if it is possible, but if it were, the quantum foam would be the ultimate energy source.

    As far as the virtual particle flux is concerned, I don't think it is identical to the quantum foam. I believe the quantum foam is produced by a primary quantum process, whereas the VPF is produced from the quantum foam by a secondary process.

    Last edited: Jul 17, 2005
  6. Jul 17, 2005 #5
    Just to clear things up, the term quantum foam is a popular science fiction term. But it alludes to the fact that in an unbelievably short amount of time, the uncertainty in energy is incredibly high resulting in a rather large energy tensor. The Einstein tensor (and so curvature tensor) is also high describing a ridiculously randomly mashed up spacetime -- thus resulting in the term foam, since the spacetime is supposed to "look" like foam.

    Of course the massive energy available is not directly detectable, and so neither is the foam. In any case there is no machine that can do anything with the energy to boil the earth's oceans, as you may have guessed from Patrick's humourous response. And there's no way you could ever look at this stuff, anyway.

    Although you might be interested to know that when you do boil a kettle of water the virtual particles in the vacuum are having an indirect effect on how the water boils. Remember the universe *is* all a vacuum with a few quantum fields, and water molecules, the element of your kettle are all excitations of the electron field. And how do they interact? Through virtual photons.
  7. Jul 18, 2005 #6
    As you may know the idea of exploiting the quantum foam is also referred to as zero point energy. I’ve read from the Calphysics Institute’s website that "If the zero-point energy is real, there is the possibility that it can be tapped as a source of power or be harnassed to generate a propulsive force for space travel," from http://www.calphysics.org/zpe.html

    Are you saying they are incorrect about this possibility?

    There's no way to look at the nucleus of atoms either (though their existence can of course be inferred) but that doesn't stop scientists from using nuclear power.
  8. Jul 18, 2005 #7
    Well, yes. But some things in SF are theoretically possible (e.g. matter/anti-matter reactors) even though they are technologically beyond our means. I was wondering if the same is true for a quantum foam absorber, since it does at least have some scientific basis (e.g. there is such a thing in known physics as the quantum foam that has enormous amounts of energy; as opposed to say hyperspace).
  9. Jul 20, 2005 #8
    No, that will never be used as an energy source because of entropy.
  10. Jul 21, 2005 #9
    Why would that be an issue? The second law of thermodyamics doesn't preculde matter/antimatter reactions being used for useful energy, since an overall increase of entropy can and would still occur (i.e. not all the energy released from a matter/antimatter reaction would be used to perform useful work). Just as entropy doesn't prevent a nuclear reactor existing (though it does pose limits on its usefulness), entropy doesn't prohibit the existence of matter/antimatter reactors.
  11. Jul 21, 2005 #10
    See http://public.web.cern.ch/Public/Content/Chapters/Spotlight/SpotlightAandD-en.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  12. Jul 22, 2005 #11
    Antimatter reactors are routinely discussed as possibilities in NASA and Popular Science. I can use websites too. From a http://www.usd.edu/phys/courses/phys300/gallery/intravel.htm [Broken] website:

    The website you mentioned does bring up some good points. If we are getting antimatter via a pure conversion of energy into mass, entropy will indeed cause us to not have any net increase in usable energy. But this doesn't mean that we can't use the antimatter created for e.g. matter/antimatter reactors.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
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