Effect of Epsilon-Near-Zero Modes on the Casimir Interaction between Ultrathin Films

Vacuum fluctuation-induced interactions between macroscopic metallic objects result in an attractive force between them, a phenomenon known as the Casimir effect. This force is the result of both plasmonic and photonic modes. For very thin films, field penetration through the films will modify the allowed modes. Here, we theoretically investigate the Casimir interaction between ultrathin films from the perspective of force distribution over real frequencies for the first time. Pronounced repulsive contributions to the force are found due to the highly confined and nearly dispersion-free epsilon-near-zero (ENZ) modes that only exist in ultrathin films. These contributions persistently occur around the ENZ frequency of the film irrespective of the interfilm separation. We further associate the ENZ modes with a striking thickness dependence of a proposed figure of merit (FOM) for conductive thin films, suggesting that the motion of objects induced by Casimir interactions is boosted for deeply nanoscale sizes. Our results shed light on the correlation between special electromagnetic modes and the vacuum fluctuation-induced force as well as the resulting mechanical properties of ultrathin ENZ materials, which may create new opportunities for engineering the motion of ultrasmall objects in nanomechanical systems.

  • Received 11 June 2022
  • Accepted 21 March 2023

DOI:https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.130.196901

© 2023 American Physical Society

Atomic, Molecular & OpticalCondensed Matter, Materials & Applied Physics

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