Quantum Fields LLC

Project Summary
Quantum Electrodynamics or QED, the theory describing the interaction of light with matter, is probably the best verified theory in physics.  It has made predictions of electronic and atomic properties that have been verified to 1 part in 100 billion.  The high accuracy of QED requires that it take into account the interaction between matter and the vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field in empty space.  These fluctuations arise since the electromagnetic field is not a classical field, but is quantized.  The lowest state is not a field of zero strength, but a field that fluctuates about zero.  QED makes some startling predictions about the importance of quantum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field in empty space.  It predicts a near infinite vacuum energy density.  (To read more details about these ideas, read the introduction in  AIAA  Joint Propulsion Conference paper Measurement of Repulsive Quantum Vacuum Forces.)  Quantum fluctuations have been linked to particle mass, to spontaneous emission, to the speed of light, and to the topology of the universe.  The presence of surfaces changes the energy density in the vacuum fluctuations.  The ability to alter these parameters could be of significant benefit to BPP objectives.  We will perform a theoretical investigation of the use of surfaces and cavity structures in order to alter vacuum energy.

The variations in vacuum energy produced by surfaces can also result in vacuum forces, such as the recently verified Casimir force between two parallel conducting plates.  Very few other geometrical structures have been investigated, and our understanding of the role of surfaces in altering vacuum energy and generating vacuum forces is very rudimentary.  For rectangular cavities, forces are predicted on the walls that may be inward, outward or zero depending on the ratios of the sides.  Such forces may be of use in operating MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) devices, including resonant cavities.  We propose to model and build a MEMS cavity structure, to verify the QED prediction of repulsive forces, and to study the properties of these cavities and the energy balance in a static and in a vibrating mode.  When we have gained a greater understanding of cavities and vibrating structures, a second generation MEMS structure will be designed, modeled, fabricated and tested.

We will investigate the possibility of fluctuation driven engines that operate between two regions of different energy density, in a similar manner to which heat engines operate at different temperature.  Two types of engines will be considered: one in which one set of surfaces moves relative to another, akin to an electric motor, and a second type in which a working fluid, perhaps consisting of atoms or electrons, passes between the two regions of different vacuum energy.  In all  theoretical and experimental work, care will be taken to understand energy balance requirements and conservation laws, and to determine what is possible and what is not.  The electromagnetic field is a conservative field, so net energy cannot be extracted in a closed cycle.   QED computations will be used as the guide.

This effort will answer many of the basic questions about the role of vacuum fluctuations, and lay a solid foundation of knowledge about vacuum energy, vacuum stress and how to control them using surfaces and what their limitations are.  Researchers will be able to build upon this knowledge to build more complex ideas and structures involving vacuum fluctuations.

The program represents a unique collaborative effort involving strong QED theorists, experts in propulsion, gravitation, and other relevant technologies, coupled with highly qualified and experienced developers of MEMS devices.  Prof. Maclay, an experienced researcher who is trained in QED and Casimir phenomena, and who has worked for over 15 years in microfabrication technology and experimental measurements, is uniquely qualified to lead this effort.  The effort will answer questions about the energy in the vacuum and if and how we might be able to utilize it in the BPP mission.

Project Team

Dr. G. Jordan Maclay, Chief Scientist,
Quantum Fields LLC
MEMS Optical, Inc., Huntsville, AL
Dr. Jay Hammer,
Rod Clark, President
University of Huntsville, Dept. of Chemistry
Prof. Michael George, Huntsville, AL
Dr. Asit Kir, Huntsville, AL
Dr. Robert L. Forward, Owner and Chief Scientist,
Forward Unlimited, Whidbey Island, WA
Dr. Peter Milonni, Laboratory Fellow, Theoretical Division,
Los Alamos National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM
Dr. Carlos Villareal, Permanent Research Scientist,
National University of Mexico (UNAM)
Mr. Michael Serry, Applications Specialist,
Digital Instruments, Monterey, CA

Dr. G. Jordan Maclay
The PI on this project is Dr. Jordan Maclay, Chief Scientist at Quantum Fields LLC.   With 20 years experience in  QED field theory,  Casimir research, and microfabrication, Dr. Maclay is uniquely qualified to head this project.

Dr. Maclay received his Ph.D. in quantum field theory from Yale University in 1972. He held a Post-Doctoral Appointment at Argonne National Laboratory, where he did experiments in particle physics.  He worked on the first experiments in proton scattering at Fermi National Laboratory.  After working in industry on new product development, he joined the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at University of Illinois at Chicago, where he taught and did research for almost 20 years.  His average annual research support was about $300,000.  He was the founder and Director of the Microelectronics Laboratory.   With $900,000 support from an Illinois Technology Challenge Grant for which Prof. Maclay was the PI, this laboratory grew into the Microfabrication Applications Laboratory, a regional center offering MEMS resources to industry. His research was in the area of microfabrication technology, chemical microsensors, micromachined structures and solid state physics.  In 1991, Prof. Maclay received the American Electronics Association award of Science and Technology Advocate of the Year. In 1988 he was Visiting Scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Circuits and Systems.  When Dr. Maclay left University of Illinois in 1998, he was given  Emeritus status. In 1999, he started Quantum Fields LLC with Mary Maclay.  Dr. Maclay holds 16 patents, and has over 100 publications.

Dr. Maclay  wrote his first paper on the Casimir effect with Prof. Lowell Brown, his Ph.D. advisor, in 1969, while still a graduate student.  In the review article entitled  “Details of the Casimir Effect and its computation,” American Journal of Physics, 59, 8, pp. 711-719(1991), authors E. Elizaide and A. Romero state: “ The paper by  L.S. Brown and G. J. Maclay, published 21 years after the work of Casimir, was especially significant from a theoretical point of view, a kind of milestone on the road leading to the modern Quantum Field Theory interpretation of the Casimir effect.  For the first time, it contains the local interpretation of the Casimir effect, in terms of vacuum energy and vacuum pressure…for the first time the calculation involved the Zeta function procedure…which has evolved into the most elegant, simple, and mathematically rigorous way of defining regularized vacuum energy densities in situations that nowadays very much generalize the original case considered by Casimir.”

 Dr. Maclay’s thesis was a QED computation of the Lamb shift in hydrogen atom using methods of group theory.  The Lamb shift is the celebrated shift in energy levels due to the interaction of the atom with the quantized vacuum field.  The discovery of the Lamb shift led to a Nobel prize, and to the formulation of QED and the quantum vacuum.  Dr. Lamb was Dr. Maclay’s quantum mechanics professor at Yale.

One of Dr. Maclay’s research efforts at UIC was the application of micromachining methods to investigate vacuum fluctuation effects, such as Casimir forces.   Recently he has worked on the use of AFM (atomic force microscopy) to measure Casimir forces, and on the modeling of micromachined structures with Casimir forces.  He published, with his collaborators: 1. The first model of a dynamic mechanical system with a Casimir force; 2. A model of beams and surfaces bent by Casimir forces in MEMS;  3.  A  study of the use of AFM methods to measure quantum forces, and most recently, 4. QED computations of Casimir forces and energies in conductive rectangular box structures with different dimensions.

Publications directly relevant to vacuum forces (many of these are available in PDF format from the Quantum Fields site):

L. Brown and J. Maclay, “Vacuum stress between conducting plates: an image solution,” Physical Review, 184, pp1791-1800, 1969.

R. Mast, M. Serry, J. Maclay, “Measurement of Forces in Microcavities
due to Quantum Fluctuations,” Prog. of 39th National Symposium of the
American Vacuum Society, P. 323, Chicago, November 9-13, 1992.

F. Serry, J. Maclay, “The Casimir Effect in a Model Microelectromechanical System,” Illinois Chapter of the AVS Annual Fall Meeting, Chicago, IL, September,

L. St. Clair, J. Maclay, “Metal Microbridges to Investigate Quantum
Forces,” Proceedings of the Winter Annual Meeting of the ASME, 9 pages,
Chicago, II November, 6-11, 1994.

F. Serry, P. Neuzil, R. Vilasuso, and G. J. Maclay, “Air Damping of Resonant AFM Micro-Cantilevers in the Presence of a Nearby Surface,” Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Microstructures and Microfabricated Systems, pp 83-89, Chicago, IL, October, 1995.

M. Serry, D. Walliser, J. Maclay, “The Anharmonic Casimir Oscillator,” IEEE-ASME Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems 4, pp 193-205, 1995.

J. Maclay, R. Ilic, M. Serry, P. Neuzil, “Use of AFM (Atomic Force  Microscope) Methods to Measure Variations in Vacuum Energy Density and Vacuum Forces in Microfabricated Structures,” NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Workshop, Cleveland, Ohio, May, 1997.

M. Serry, D. Walliser, J. Maclay, “The role of the casimir effect in the static deflection and stiction of membrane strips in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS),” Journal of Applied Physics. 84, 5, pp2501-2506(1998).

J. Maclay, “Unusual Properties of Conductive Rectangular Cavities in the Zero Point Electromagnetic Field: Resolving Forward’s Casimir Energy Extraction Cycle Paradox,” Proceedings of STAIF-99 (Space Technology and Applications International Forum), CD-ROM, Albuquerque, NM, January, 1999.

MEMS Optical, Inc., Huntsville, AL

Rod Clark, President of MEMS Optical Inc. will direct the experimental effort at MEMS Optical Inc.  His extensive and current experience in  MEMS processing, and in the development of diffractive optic technology has given him the expert knowledge necessary to execute this effort.

Dr. Jay Hammer will support this effort by providing mechanical (structural and thermal) modeling of the cavity structures. He has extensive experience in mechanical modeling and design of micromachined devices.  Dr. Hammer received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1993.

University of Alabama – Dept. of Chemistry, Huntsville, AL
Professor Michael George and Leland Sanderson will be performing the experiment to measure repulsive Casimir forces in vacuum using an atomic force microscope.

Dr. Robert L. Forward
Owner and Chief Scientist, Forward Unlimited, Whidbey Island, WA

Dr. Robert  L. Forward died at home from terminal melanoma September 21, 2002.
He was a great friend and scientist and is missed.

Dr. Robert L. Forward is a science consultant, writer, and futurist specializing in studies of exotic physical phenomena and future space exploration with an emphasis on advanced space propulsion concepts. Dr. Forward obtained his B.S. in Physics from University of Maryland in 1954, M.S. in Applied Physics from UCLA in 1958, and Ph.D. in Gravitational Physics from University of Maryland in 1965. For his thesis he built and operated the world’s first bar antenna for the detection of gravitational radiation. The antenna is now at the Smithsonian museum.

Dr. Forward has 40 years of experience in advanced space propulsion, experimental general relativity, gravitational and inertial sensors, low noise electronics, and space sciences. For 31 years, from 1956 until 1987, Dr. Forward worked at the Hughes Aircraft Company Research Laboratories in Malibu, California in positions of increasing responsibility, culminating with the position of Senior Scientist on the Director’s staff. During that time he built and operated the world’s first laser interferometer gravitational radiation detector, invented the rotating gravitational mass sensor, published over 70 technical publications, and was awarded 18 patents. He left Hughes in 1987 in order to spend more time writing and consulting under his own company, Forward Unlimited.

From 1983 to the present, Dr. Forward has had a series of contracts from the Department of Defense and NASA totaling more than $820,000, to explore the forefront of physics and engineering in order to find new energy sources and new propulsion concepts that could produce breakthroughs in space power and propulsion. In one study Dr. Forward was able to show that the futuristic concept of antiproton annihilation propulsion was technically feasible, although expensive. As a result of his study, the Air Force set up special programs to support antiproton annihilation propulsion research, which are still ongoing today.

In other studies, Dr. Forward found that high strength rapidly-rotating space tethers could revolutionize space travel by providing a space transportation network that could move payloads from LEO to GEO to the Lunar surface, Mars and back without the expenditure of rocket propellant. In 1994 he formed a partnership, Tethers Unlimited, with Dr. Robert P. Hoyt, the inventor of the Hoytether, a highly-survivable, fail-safe interconnected multiline space tether with a probability of surviving cuts by space debris that is
500 times better than a single-line tether. In the past two years, the partnership has received tether contracts exceeding $200,000, and will shortly negotiate a two-year $600,000 NASA contract for the development of manufacturing methods for Hoytethers. This work should lead to flight experiments and potentially a revolution in interorbit and interplanetary space travel.

Dr. Forward is a recognized expert on future technology, especially exotic physics and future space travel. He has given invited, paid lectures to the Okayama Prefecture in Japan, the 1990 NASA/Lewis Vision 21 Workshop, and four National Space Society International Space Conferences. He has presented invited review papers on the feasibility of interstellar flight as part of a 1976 JPL Flyby Celebration, the JPL “Gossamer Spacecraft” workshop, and the 1985 IAF Congress, and also an invited paper to the 1985 IAF
Congress reviewing the entire US advanced space propulsion program. He was a visiting lecturer on advanced space propulsion at the 1993 summer session of the International Space University. In 1994 he was the Keynote Speaker at the Practical Robotic Interstellar Flight Conference.

Dr. Forward’s extensive review and bibliography, “A National Space Program for Interstellar Exploration” is published in Future Space Programs 1975 of the House Subcommittee on Space Science and Applications. In 1990, he was invited by the AIAA to write the advanced space propulsion section of the special propulsion issue of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In 1991 he was asked by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to be a contributor of an article on interstellar travel to a Columbus 500th Anniversary Commemorative Book, Where Next Columbus?. In 1993 he was asked to write the advanced space propulsion section of the US Air Force Academy sponsored textbook on space propulsion. He is a regular contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, with invited review articles, “Ships to the Stars” in the 1988 Yearbook, and “Antimatter” in the 1993 Yearbook.

In addition to 126 technical publications and 19 patents, Dr. Forward has written 69 popular science articles and 10 short stories for publications such Omni, New Scientist, Encyclopaedia Britannica Yearbook, Science Digest, Focus, Science 80, Analog, and Galaxy. His 13 published book-length works include three science fact books, Future Magic (Avon, 1988), replaced by Indistinguishable From Magic (Baen 1995), and Mirror Matter: Pioneering Antimatter Physics with Joel Davis (Wiley, 1988), and ten hard science fictionnovels, Dragon’s Egg (Del Rey, 1981) and its sequel Starquake (Del Rey, 1985), Rocheworld (Baen, 1989) and its four sequels, Return to Rocheworld with Julie Forward Fuller (Baen, 1992), Ocean Under The Ice with Martha Dodson Forward (Baen 1994), Marooned on Eden with Martha Dodson Forward (Baen, 1993), and Rescued From Paradise with Julie Forward Fuller (Baen, 1995); Martian Rainbow (Del Rey, 1991), Timemaster (Tor, 1992), and Camelot 30K (Tor, 1993). He has also turned in his eleventh novel Saturn Rukh to Tor Books, which is scheduled for release in March 1997. His novels and short stories are “hard” science fiction, where the science is as accurate as possible. As a writer, Dr. Forward writes under his full professional name of “Dr. Robert L. Forward” in order to distinguish himself from his son Robert D. Forward who writes under the name of “Bob Forward”.

Dr. Forward is a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the American Physical Society, Sigma Xi, Sigma Pi Sigma, National Space Society, Interstellar Propulsion Society, Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Authors Guild.

Dr. Peter Milonni
Laboratory Fellow, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM (retired)

Before joining Los Alamos, Dr. Milonni was a Professor of Physics at University of Arkansas, a Senior Staff Scientist at the Perkins-Elmer Corp., and a Research Physicist at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory.  He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Rochester (1974).

Recent research and publications are in the adaptive optics for astronomy, frequency conversion for inertial confinement fusion, and the theory of electromagnetic processes in dispersive media.  During the past year he was an Associated Western Universities Distinguished Lecturer and a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  He is a member of the Advisory Board for the Santa Barbara Institute for Theoretical Physics and has served on the editorial board for six journals.  In addition to approximately 100 research papers, he is co-author of a widely used textbook on Lasers (Wiley, 1988,second edition to be published), a research monograph on Chaos in Laser Matter Interactions (World Scientific, 1987), and most recently The Quantum Vacuum: an Introduction to Quantum Electrodynamics (Academic Press, 1994).

Dr. Carlos Villarreal
Permanent Researcher, Physics Institute, National University of Mexico (UNAM)

Dr. Villarreal is a QED specialist who has been working in the area of vacuum fluctuations and Casimir effects for over ten years.  He has studied vacuum fluctuations and quantum noise in rectangular cavities.  He has investigated dynamic Casimir phenomena involving moving plates in vacuum and with excited atoms between the plates.  He has also studied the conversion of different forms of Casimir energy, which occurs in theories of sonoluminiscence, in which the geometrical Casimir energy in a bubble is converted into radiation.

Dr. Villarreal received his Ph. D. in Physics from  Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) in 1988.  He was a research associate at UNAM from 1989 to 1995, and at Duke University from 1992 to 1993.

Some publications related to Quantum Fluctuations

1. Spectrum of Electromagnetic Fluctuations in the Casimir Effect,
    S.Hacyan, R.Jauregui, F.Soto, C.Villarreal,
    Journal of Physics  A 23, 2401, (1990).

2. Quantum Noise in  Rectangular Cavities,
    C. Villarreal, R. Jauregui, S. Hacyan,
    Modern Physics Letters A 7, 2957, (1992)

3. Spectrum of Quantum Electromagnetic Fluctuations in  Rectangular Cavities,
    S. Hacyan, R. Jauregui, and C. Villarreal,
    Physical Review A 47, 4204, (1993).

4. Quantum Phenomena between Uniformly Moving Plates,
    R. Jauregui, C. Villarreal, and S. Hacyan,
    Modern Pyhsics Letters A 10, 619 (1995).

5. Vacuum Fluctuations and Symmetry Breaking in Spaces with Nontrivial Topology,
      C. Villarreal,
      Physical Review D 51, 2959 (1995).

6. Generation of Particles and Squeezed States between Moving Conductors,
      C. Villarreal, S. Hacyan, and R. Jauregui,
      Physical Review A 52, 594 (1995).

7. Transition Probabilities of Atomic Systems Between Moving Walls,
       R. Jauregui and C. Villarreal
       Physical Review A 54, 3480 (1996).

8. Quantum and Classical Radiation From the Surface of a Sonoluminescent Bubble,
      R. Esquivel-Sirvent, R. Jauregui, and C. Villarreal
       Physical Review A 56, 2463 (1997).

Michael Serry
Application Scientist, Digital Instruments Inc., Monterey, CA

Mr. Serry is expert in the use of Atomic Force Microscopes. He is an Applications Scientist for Digital Instruments, Inc., one of the leading manufacturer of AFM equipment in the world.  Mr. Serry  also has previously collaborated with Dr. Maclay in research in Casimir forces.


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