Casimir cavity physics with MEMS: force measurements and detecting the Casimir energy
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The Casimir Effect is a physical manifestation of quantum fluctuations of the electromagnetic vacuum. When two metal plates are placed closely together, typically much less than a micron, the long wavelength modes between them are frozen out, giving rise to a net attractive force between the plates, scaling as d^(-4) even when they are not electrically charged. Additionally, the lower density of electromagnetic modes inside the cavity compared to outside is thought to result in a "negative energy density," however this has never been proven experimentally. Due to the small scale of this effect, we use micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) to investigate the forces and energies which arise between these conductive surfaces. This dissertation presents measurements of the Casimir force using a modified commercial accelerometer as well as a novel chip-scale system for Casimir energy detection using a thin-film superconductor in a tunable nano-cavity.