In the depths of Deep Space, the vast emptiness may be more alive than we ever thought possible.
The vacuum of space isn’t as void as previously advertised. Zero-Point Energy – ZPE – pervades every corner of the universe, populating space with it’s minimalism. This week a new experiment was conducted that went a long way to confirming the existence of Zero Point Energy.
Scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden constructed an electronic magnetic mirror and wiggled it 6 billion times a second. At this speed the mirror was able to produce a shower of photons from nothing, reflect light that wasn’t even there. In a completely dark and void vacuum, zero-point energy it seems exists.
ZPE – Zero Point Energy – is in a sense the lowest energy point for a space or material. All matter and space has a Zero-Point, an amount of energy even when all energy available has been extracted. All matter has a level of energy even when cooled to absolute zero. ZPE is often associated with a vacuum but all matter and space in the universe has a zero-point. The behavior of ZPE in a vacuum called Zero Point Fluctuations or Quantum Vacuum Fluctuations is the most talked about and studied phenomenon connected to the ZPE theory. In a vacuum while there may be zero matter or particles there is still an energy field present. This is the zero-point of a space – since the vacuum has removed all the particles -. The shower of photons produced in the Chalmers University experiment was caused by the mirror catching ZPE Fluctuations and their reflection. In a sense it was a Medusa experiment in that the flashes off the mirror were the reflections not an actual particle.
Part of the problem for Zero-Point Energy is that the actual physics – Quantum physics– that explain it are crazier than a Volkswagen full of conspiracy theorists. Many of the idea’s behind the theory aren’t even close to common sense. For example the Quantum Physics theory regarding Vacuums describes – Quantum Vacuum theory – a vacuum as being full of energy, zero-point energy. Not that the energy is there permanently, its potential is there and from time to time that potential will lead to a particle popping in an out of existence for just a flash of time. So while the vacuum is void of any normal matter or particles the potential for that space to contain matter is enough for ZPE to exist.
The theory of zero-point energy was developed in Germany by Albert Einstein and Otto Stern in 1913, using a formula developed by Max Planck in 1900. Since its original conception ZPE and Quantum Vacuum theory have become one of the major branches of Quantum physics studied today. Einstein and Stern’s work along with Planck’s was at least 100 years ahead of its time. It’s only been the last few decades Quantum physics has really developed as a field of study, the need to work at extremely small sizes forcing us to face the Quantum world.
Until recently there was only one experiment that could prove the existence of the Zero-Point field, the Casimir effect experiment. In the experiment two conducting plates are placed in parallel a very short distance apart – microns or billionth’s of a meter – . If the gap is smaller than the wavelength of light – or any other part of electromagnetic radiation spectrum – then the potential for that part of the spectrum is blocked. When this happens the space outside the gap has greater potential – the whole spectrum and creates an over-pressure outside of the gap, forcing the plates together slightly. This is a measurable force that has been confirmed in multiple labs around the world. A number of teams around the world are also working to convert the Casimir force into a way of generating power.
The existence of Zero Point energy is actually not as controversial as the ability to tap into and use this energy. Free energy devices sometimes also called ‘Over Unity devices’ have a long and rich history of discovery and scientific ridicule. To date no devices have been granted scientific validity. This is by no means an absolute judgement though, science after all reserves the right to change its mind at any time. The first thing to remember about all of the Free Energy Machines, none of them are free to build and none of them produce energy from nothing, they all require input to power to start them off. The field that these devices are trying to tap into is an actual field – they are not generating power from nothing but an actual field -. There are literally hundreds of websites dedicated to over unity devices, in many ways they are the modern equivalent to the old X-Ray specs in old comic magazines. As the saying goes if it sound too good to be true it probably is. This may well be a power source of the future but we need to understand a lot more about the quantum world before that happens.
Power generation is the most obvious use for ZPE it also happens to be the most controversial. While the scientific community is very hesitant to admit ZPE has any potential use for power generation there is much interesting research being carried out. Most approaches are using the Casimir effect to add energy to a system. There are also some interesting machines being designed and tested in sheds all over the world but that is something completely different to developing commercial power generation systems. There have been many famous names attached to such devices as well, Tesla, Edison, Bearden all had a shot at free energy.
Real world effects of these forces are already being encountered. As the manufacture of electronics and microelectronics gets smaller these forces become more obvious. Remember the Casimir force is generated by a tiny gap between conductors, which is exactly what makes up most electronic chips. In the electronics world this problem is called ‘Stiction’ and can cause serious problems during manufacturing. Electronics manufacturing is actually driving lots of research into these fields. The virtual photons observed during the Chalmers University experiment may also be observed in electronics once they approach similar Terahertz frequencies.
As the world we live in gets smaller and smaller we enter the world of quantum physics more and more often. This is a strange Lewis Carroll kind of world, where the laws of logic are replaced by mad hatters and magic pills. Finding our feet in this brave new world will hold a few surprises and take us places we never imagined. The first surprise is Nature hates nothingness, refuses to allow it to exists. Even in an empty space, even if you froze it there is still a baseline of energy present. This is the energy level of the zero point, this is as close to nothing as nature will let us get.
Buddha’s Brother out…