Casimir Forces between Compact Objects: I. The Scalar Case

T. Emig 1, 2, N. Graham 3, 4, R. L. Jaffe 4, M. Kardar 5

Physical Review D 77 (2008) 025005

We have developed an exact, general method to compute Casimir interactions between a finite number of compact objects of arbitrary shape and separation. Here, we present details of the method for a scalar field to illustrate our approach in its most simple form; the generalization to electromagnetic fields is outlined in Ref. [1]. The interaction between the objects is attributed to quantum fluctuations of source distributions on their surfaces, which we decompose in terms of multipoles. A functional integral over the effective action of multipoles gives the resulting interaction. Each object's shape and boundary conditions enter the effective action only through its scattering matrix. Their relative positions enter through universal translation matrices that depend only on field type and spatial dimension. The distinction of our method from the pairwise summation of two-body potentials is elucidated in terms of the scattering processes between three objects. To illustrate the power of the technique, we consider Robin boundary conditions $\phi -\lambda \partial_n \phi=0$, which interpolate between Dirichlet and Neumann cases as $\lambda$ is varied. We obtain the interaction between two such spheres analytically in a large separation expansion, and numerically for all separations. The cases of unequal radii and unequal $\lambda$ are studied. We find sign changes in the force as a function of separation in certain ranges of $\lambda$ and see deviations from the proximity force approximation even at short separations, most notably for Neumann boundary conditions.

  • 1. Institut für Theoretische Physik,
    Universität zu Köln
  • 2. Laboratoire de Physique Théorique et Modèles Statistiques (LPTMS),
    CNRS : UMR8626 – Université Paris XI - Paris Sud
  • 3. Department of Physics,
  • 4. Center for Theoretical Physics, Laboratory for Nuclear Science and Department of Physics,
  • 5. Department of Physics Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology