The Casimir effect from the point of view of algebraic quantum field theory

Claudio Dappiaggi, Gabriele Nosari, Nicola Pinamonti
December 03, 2014
We consider a region of Minkowski spacetime bounded either by one or by two parallel, infinitely extended plates orthogonal to a spatial direction and a real Klein-Gordon field satisfying Dirichlet boundary conditions. We quantize these two systems within the algebraic approach to quantum field theory using the so-called functional formalism. As a first step we construct a suitable unital ${}^*$-algebra of observables whose generating functionals are characterized by a labeling space which is at the same time optimal and separating. Subsequently we give a definition for these systems of Hadamard states and we investigate explicit examples. In the case of a single plate, it turns out that one can build algebraic states via a pull-back of those on the whole Minkowski spacetime, moreover inheriting from them the Hadamard property. When we consider instead two plates, algebraic states can be put in correspondence with those on flat spacetime via the so-called method of images, which we translate to the algebraic setting. For a massless scalar field we show that this procedure works perfectly for a large class of quasi-free states including the Poincaré vacuum and KMS states. Eventually we use our results in both systems to introduce the notion of Wick polynomials, showing that a global extended algebra does not exist. Furthermore we construct explicitly the two-point function and the regularized energy density, showing, moreover, that the outcome is consistent with the standard results of the Casimir effect.

algebraic quantum field theory, Casimir effect

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