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International team led by Manjavacas discovers strange forces acting on nanoparticles

Departmental News

Alejandro Manjavacas, UNM P&A assistant professor

Posted: May 8, 2017

Alejandro Manjavacas (UNM Physics & Astronomy) led an international team whose research has discovered a strange force impacting particles at the smallest level of the material world. The discovery was recently published in Physical Review Letters. Collaborators on the project include Francisco Rodríguez-Fortuño (King’s College London, U.K.), F. Javier García de Abajo (The Institute of Photonic Sciences, Spain) and Anatoly Zayats (King’s College London, U.K.).

The findings relate to an area of theoretical nanophotonics and quantum theory known as the Casimir Effect, a measurable force that exists between objects inside a vacuum caused by the fluctuations of electromagnetic waves. When studied using classical physics, the vacuum would not produce any force on the objects. However, when looked at using quantum field theory, the vacuum is filled with photons, creating a small but potentially significant force on the objects.

Currently, Manjavacas heads UNM’s Theoretical Nanophotonics research group, collaborating with scientists around the world and locally in New Mexico. In fact, Manjavacas credits Los Alamos National Laboratory Researcher Diego Dalvit, a leading expert on Casimir forces, for helping much of his work progress.

Learn more about this discovery at the original story
by Aaron Hilf published in the UNM Newsroom on April 7, 2017.