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Homework Help: Is the Casimir effect always attractive?

  1. Nov 27, 2008 #1
    Wikipedia says that the Casimir effect is attractive, and that the equation for calculating the force per unit area between two electrically neutral plates is:


    "a" is the distance between the plates. So if the plates are moved closer together, the change in energy over area is negative, and the change in distance between the plates is negative. A negative number over a negative number is positive, times the minus sign before the derivative, giving a negative force. If the plates are moved apart, the change in energy is positive, over a positive change in distance, times the minus sign before the derivative, also resulting in a negative force.

    But I thought the Casimir effect produces a conservative force? Is the Casimir effect always attractive (since it's always negative), or will moving the plates apart cause an additional push apart?

    I know this is basic arithmetic, but my understanding of the physical effect doesn't seem to jive with the math. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 28, 2008 #2
    Force divided by Area is a Pressure.
    The Casimir effect refers to a negative pressure in between the plates.
    Think of it like a vacuum force sucking the plates together with the non-intuitive effect that :
    As the plates get closer the negative pressure increases so the plates are pulled together harder.
    As the plates get further apart the negative pressure decreases so the plates are pulled together less.
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