Heat energy jumps over empty space, If you use a vacuum insulated flask to make your coffee warm, you might know that this flask is a good insulator because heat is difficult to move through empty space.
The vibrations of atoms or molecules that carry heat can only move if the atoms or molecules are nearby.
But, a new study shows how the peculiarities of quantum mechanics can reverse the basic principles of classical physics.
Although this interaction is only important on a very short scale, this interaction can have a profound impact on the design of computer chips and other nanoscale electronic components where heat dissipation is very important.
This also repeats what many of us have learned about heat transfer in high school physics.
Heat is usually carried out in a solid body by the vibrations of atoms or molecules, or called phonons, but there is no physical environment in a vacuum.
In the experiment, Zateam placed two membranes coated with silicon nitride at a distance of several hundred nanometers in a vacuum. When one membrane is heated, the other is heated, even though nothing connects the two membranes and the negligible light energy that passes between them.
The discovery of this new heat transfer mechanism opens up unprecedented opportunities for nanoscale thermal control, which is important for high-speed data storage and calculation.
At first glance, it is impossible to move molecular vibrations through a vacuum, because according to quantum mechanics there is no empty space.
This vibration creates a force that connects two objects, called the Casimir interaction.
So when an object heats up and starts to vibrate and oscillate, this movement can be transferred to other objects through a vacuum because of this quantum oscillation.
Although theorists have long speculated that Casimir interactions can help molecular vibrations move through empty space, it has been a big challenge to prove this. For this purpose, the team created a very thin silicon nitride membrane produced in a clean and dust-free room and then developed methods to control and check their temperature.
They found that by choosing the size and design of the membrane, they could transfer heat energy to several hundred nanometers of vacuum. This distance is far enough so that other types of heat transfer may not be significant, for example, the energy carried by electromagnetic radiation, by which solar energy heats the earth.