The Casimir effect involves two parallel conducting plates very close to each other.

The static Casimir effect consists in an attractive force between the two plates, explained by the spatial mismatch in modes inside and outside the plates, resulting in a net energy gradient pointing away from the middle of the plates and hence a force inward.

The dynamic Casimir effect, has the plates accelerating at a speed $v$ near the speed of light. This introduces a mismatch in time, "the plate moves faster than the virtual particles so that these become real", resulting in emission of light.

Now, I really don't like the notion of virtual particles because they are not real, they are just artifacts of the theory. I always try to explain the phenomenon without virtual particles.

So, what is the underlying cause of the dynamic Casimir effect?

Can I not just think of it as accelerating charges emitting radiation?


I gave myself the answer that there is essentially no difference.

Classically, one would expect the vacuum to have a zero electric field, so there should not be any radiation emitted as a result of the accelerated plate.
But because of quantum fluctuations, there is still some coupling, and radiation ("real photons") are emitted.

  • $\begingroup$ I downvoted because this is too vague to constitute an answer IMO. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Steane Feb 19 '20 at 22:17

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