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The Military Science

US Nuclear Weapons Lab Discovers How To Suppress the Casimir Force 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the requires-application-of-Casimir's-Oil dept.
KentuckyFC writes "One of the frustrating problems with microelectromechanical (MEM) devices is that the machinery can sometimes stick fast, causing them to stop working. One of the culprits is the Casimir effect — an exotic force that pushes metallic sheets together when they are separated by tiny distances. Now physicists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have worked out and demonstrated how to suppress the Casimir force. The trick is to create a set of deep grooves and ridges in the surface of one sheet so that the other only comes close to the tips of the ridges. These tips have a much smaller surface area than the flat sheet and so generate much less force. That could help prevent stiction in future MEMs devices. But why would a nuclear weapons lab be interested? MEM devices are invulnerable to electromagnetic pulse weapons that fry transistor-based switches, and so could be used as on-off switches for nuclear devices."
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US Nuclear Weapons Lab Discovers How To Suppress the Casimir Force

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  • by goombah99 (560566) on Friday October 11, 2013 @02:24PM (#45104059)

    Los Alamos is a National Laboratory. It's not a "Nuclear Weapons Laboratory". It sequences Genomes, it works on carbon nanotubes, it develops remote sensing, it does particle physics, it works on biofuels, and proteins, and medicine. You might as well say Stanford University is a place where they develop internet search engines, and General electric makes nuclear reactors.

  • Re:brilliant! (Score:2, Informative)

    by sfm (195458) on Friday October 11, 2013 @02:26PM (#45104071)

    Breakthrough?
    This technique has been used for years in the manufacture of MEMS sensors.
    Ridges, bumps and non-perpendicular geometries all tend to reduce the surface
    to surface contact area and are standard in MEMS gyroscope and accelerometer
    designs, used to combat "Stiction".

    While interesting, this is not new news.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 11, 2013 @03:46PM (#45104597)

    Los Alamos is a National Laboratory. It's not a "Nuclear Weapons Laboratory". It sequences Genomes...

    Los Alamos is very much a nuclear weapons laboratory, one of three in the US. Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore are responsible for the (about a dozen) nuclear parts of nuclear weapons whereas Sandia, considered an engineering rather than physics laboratory, is responsible for the (thousands of) non-nuclear parts of nuclear weapons. All three are national laboratories and work on all sorts of other things, but they are the only ones responsible for designing the US nuclear arsenal.

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