Casimir effect from macroscopic quantum electrodynamics

Thomas Gerard Philbin

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48 Citations (Scopus)


The canonical quantization of macroscopic electromagnetism was recently presented in (Philbin 2010 New J. Phys. 12 123008). This theory is used here to derive the Casimir effect, by considering the special case of thermal and zero-point fields. The stress-energy-momentum tensor of the canonical theory follows from Noether's theorem, and its electromagnetic part in thermal equilibrium gives the Casimir energy density and stress tensor. The results hold for arbitrary inhomogeneous magnetodielectrics and are obtained from a rigorous quantization of electromagnetism in dispersive, dissipative media. Continuing doubts about the status of the standard Lifshitz theory as a proper quantum treatment of Casimir forces do not apply to the derivation given here. Moreover, the correct expressions for the Casimir energy density and stress tensor inside media follow automatically from the simple restriction to thermal equilibrium, without the need for complicated thermodynamical or mechanical arguments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number063026
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • Casimir effect
  • Macroscopic quantum electrodynamics
  • Zero-point fields
  • Electromagnetism
  • Thermal equilibrium


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