Rice University logoGeorge R. Brown School of Engineering
Electrical and Computer Engineering

The Gene Brice Colloquium Series presents

2009 - Capasso (image)

Federico Capasso

Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics
Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering
Harvard University



Forces out of Nothing: Vacuum Fluctuations, Quantum Levitation and the Future of Nanomachines

Attractive forces that exist between any uncharged surfaces in vacuum due to quantum mechanical fluctuations (zero point energy) are known as Casimir-Lifshitz forces. These forces, tailored by suitable choice of the materials and shape, can become repulsive by interleaving a suitable liquid. The results imply that future scaled-down micro - electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) will open the door to new actuators, nanoscale position sensors, and frictionless bearings based on quantum levitation.

Professor Capasso’s presentation includes measurements of these exotic forces and concludes with a brief discussion of future exciting possibilities — the vacuum torque and the “holy grail” of quantum electrodynamics, and light generation by “shaking the vacuum.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009
Lecture 4:00 p.m. - McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall
Reception 5:00pm - Martel Hall



Dr. Federico Capasso is the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University, which he joined in 2003 after a 26 year career at Bell Labs where he rose from postdoctoral student to Vice President for Physical Research. He holds a Doctor of Physics degree from the University of Rome, Italy, 1973. His research includes the quantum design of new artificially structured materials and devices, plasmonics, nanophotonics, nanomechanics and the investigation of quantum electrodynamical phenomena such as the Casmir effect. He is co-inventor of the quantum cascade laser, a fundamentally new light source, which is commercially available.

The co-author of more than 300 papers, Capasso has edited four volumes and holds over 65 US patents. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the Optical Society of America (OSA), IEEE, SPIE, APS and The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). His awards include the King Faisal International Prize for Science, the American Physical Society Arthur Schawlow Prize, the IEEE Edison Medal, the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (IEEE/LEOS) Streifer Award, the Wetherill Medal of the Franklin Institute, the OSA Robert Wood prize, the Rank Prize in Optoelectronics, the Material Research Society Medal, the IEEE D. Sarnoff Award, the Welker Medal, the Duddell Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics (UK), the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Host: Naomi Halas