Calculating Casimir Energies in Renormalizable Quantum Field Theory

Kimball A. Milton


Department of Physics and Astronomy

University of Oklahoma

Norman, OK 73019-0430

Quantum vacuum energy has been known to have observable consequences since 1948 when Casimir calculated the force of attraction between parallel uncharged plates, a phenomenon confirmed experimentally with ever increasing precision. Casimir himself suggested that a similar attractive
self-stress existed for a conducting spherical shell, but Boyer obtained a repulsive stress. Other geometries and higher dimensions have been considered over the years. Local effects, and divergences associated with surfaces and edges have been considered by several authors. Quite recently, Graham et al. have re-examined such calculations, using conventional techniques of perturbative quantum field theory to remove divergences, and have suggested that previous self-stress results may be suspect. Here we show that the examples considered in their work are misleading; in particular, it is well-known
that in two dimensions a circular boundary has a divergence in the Casimir energy for massless fields, while for general dimension $D$ not equal to an even integer the corresponding Casimir energy arising from massless fields interior and exterior to a hyperspherical shell is finite. It has also long been recognized that the Casimir energy for massive fields is divergent for $D\ne1$. These conclusions are reinforced by a calculation of the relevant leading Feynman diagram in $D$ dimensions. There is therefore no doubt of the validity of the conventional finite Casimir calculations.

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