Conformal field theory of critical Casimir forces between surfaces with alternating boundary conditions in two dimensions

Jerome Dubail 1 Raoul Santachiara 2 Thorsten Emig 3, 2

Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment, IOP Science, 2017, pp.033201

Systems as diverse as binary mixtures and inclusions in biological membranes, and many more, can be described effectively by interacting spins. When the critical fluctuations in these systems are constrained by boundary conditions, critical Casimir forces (CCF) emerge. Here we analyze CCF between boundaries with alternating boundary conditions in two dimensions, employing conformal field theory (CFT). After presenting the concept of boundary changing operators, we specifically consider two different boundary configurations for a strip of critical Ising spins: (I) alternating equi-sized domains of up and down spins on both sides of the strip, with a possible lateral shift, and (II) alternating domains of up and down spins of different size on one side and homogeneously fixed spins on the other side of the strip. Asymptotic results for the CCF at small and large distances are derived. We introduce a novel modified Szeg\"o formula for determinants of real antisymmetric block Toeplitz matrices to obtain the exact CCF and the corresponding scaling functions at all distances. We demonstrate the existence of a surface Renormalization Group flow between universal force amplitudes of different magnitude and sign. The Casimir force can vanish at a stable equilibrium position that can be controlled by parameters of the boundary conditions. Lateral Casimir forces assume a universal simple cosine form at large separations.

  • 1. Equipe 106, IJL - Groupe de Physique statistique = Statistical Physics Group [Institut Jean Lamour]
  • 2. LPTMS - Laboratoire de Physique Théorique et Modèles Statistiques
  • 3. MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology