RE: Casimir effect energy extraction

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Mon Jan 31 2000 - 02:32:37 MST

On Sun, 30 Jan 2000, Daniel Toffetti wrote:

> Solar tech is not affordable because it is made unaffordable. Do you
> really believes that an Intel Pentium III 500 Mhz is cheaper to mass-produce
> than a square meter of solar cells?

*Yes*, a Pentium III is cheaper to mass-produce than a m^2 of solar cells
simply on the basis that the materials and thickness are relatively the same,
so the cost should scale with area. While you don't *strictly* have to
have the fine lines, quality level of silicon, etc. for solar cells that
you need for computer chips, it does provide the greatest efficiency.
Now, where chips start getting expensive is when you have to have dozens
of processing steps over the same material (that ties up your factory)
which ultimately translates into manufacturing equipment costs.

Currently the solar industry is getting a big boost from using the
leftover (bad) Silicon from the semiconductor industry. The growth
in the semiconductor industry is probably helping to drive down costs
in the solar industry.

Ultimately though this comes down to market size. Once the market
is large enough and the manufacturing methods productive enough and
the materials costs low enough (due to large volumes or cheaper
materials), then solar will become very available. Nanotech makes
solar inevitable because it makes the factories and materials, literally
"dirt" cheap.

> So sorry, what is MEMS? Maybe I missed something on this thread?

MEMS is MicroElectrical Mechanical Systems if I recall (someone please
correct if I'm misreading my hard drive).

Its the process of building mostly mechanical parts with a little
electrical or electrostatics thrown in using variants of the standard
semiconductor manufacturing methods. Its used to make the accelerometers
that trigger your car air bags as well as a host of other emerging things.

Where it gets interesting is when the folks at MIT get micro-gas turbines
and they get manufactured in mega-quantities that let you use arrays
of them to power your Moller Air Car... No nano required. I don't
know if I trust even 8 engines, but give me a few million and I think
I'd feel pretty safe.

Commenting on some other comments.

As Hal observed the paper seems iffy. My reading of it is that
they think they can setup a oscillating membrane, but don't seem
to discuss if its possible to harvest power from that. Of course
if you tie the center of a flexible membrane to a shaft that hooks
a ratchet gear it would seem thats going to give you rotational
mechanical energy. This may be one of those things that works
from a theoretical point (i.e. if the surfaces were "infinate" or
you didn't have any frictional losses), but when it comes to
actually designing it mechanically, it just doesn't fly.

In thinking about Michael's comment regarding tapping this energy,
it seems the question is whether the harvesting of the quantum field
energy and eventually dumping it into heat in this universe leads
to it eventually flowing back down into the quantum field...
Or another way of looking at this is - Is there a "coupling" between
radiation in the universe and the quantum field?

Way beyond my level of physics...


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