Quantum trapping and rotational self-alignment in triangular Casimir microcavities

Küçüköz B., Kotov O.V., Canales A., Polyakov A.Y., Agrawal A.V., Antosiewicz T.J., Shegai T.O.

Science Advances

10(17), 2024, art. eadn1825, 10.1126/sciadv.adn1825

Casimir torque, a rotational motion driven by zero-point energy minimization, is a problem that attracts notable research interest. Recently, it has been realized using liquid crystal phases and natural anisotropic substrates. However, for natural materials, substantial torque occurs only at van der Waals distances of ~10 nm. Here, we use Casimir self- assembly with triangular gold nanostructures for rotational self-alignment at truly Casimir distances (100 to 200 nm separation). The interplay of repulsive electrostatic and attractive Casimir potentials forms a stable quantum trap, giving rise to a tunable Fabry-Pérot microcavity. This cavity self-aligns both laterally and rotationally to maximize area overlap between templated and floating flakes. The rotational self-alignment is sensitive to the equilibrium distance between the two triangles and their area, offering possibilities for active control via electrostatic screening manipulation. Our self-assembled Casimir microcavities present a versatile and tunable platform for nanophotonic, polaritonic, and optomechanical applications.