Dynamical Casimir effect in a Josephson metamaterial

Pasi Lähteenmäki, G.S. Paraoanu, Juha Hassel, Pertti J. Hakonen

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    The zero-point energy stored in the modes of an electromagnetic cavity has experimentally detectable effects, giving rise to an attractive interaction between the opposite walls, the static Casimir effect. A dynamical version of this effect was predicted to occur when the vacuum energy is changed either by moving the walls of the cavity or by changing the index of refraction, resulting in the conversion of vacuum fluctuations into real photons. Here, we demonstrate the dynamical Casimir effect using a Josephson metamaterial embedded in a microwave cavity at 5.4 GHz. We modulate the effective length of the cavity by flux-biasing the metamaterial based on superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs), which results in variation of a few percentage points in the speed of light. We extract the full 4 × 4 covariance matrix of the emitted microwave radiation, demonstrating that photons at frequencies symmetrical with respect to half of the modulation frequency are generated in pairs. At large detunings of the cavity from half of the modulation frequency, we find power spectra that clearly show the theoretically predicted hallmark of the Casimir effect: a bimodal, “sparrow-tail” structure. The observed substantial photon flux cannot be assigned to parametric amplification of thermal fluctuations; its creation is a direct consequence of the noncommutativity structure of quantum field theory.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4234-4238
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Josephson junctions
    • nanoelectronics
    • quantum mechanics


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