Is zero point energy exploitable?

The short answer is ‘No’. If you think about what the zero-point energy represents, it is the lowest POSSIBLE energy state of a system. For us to extract any energy out of this system would leave it in an even lower energy state (which, by definition, does not exist)!

To understand this is slightly more detail – consider a mass on a spring. If it’s position is well defined, it has a certain amount of P.E. stored in the spring. However, a well-defined position implies an infinite spread in momentum – and a resulting infinite spread in Energy as well. In practice, one does not have an exact position – just a region of spread for the mass. Correspondingly, the energies for the system are at (or slightly above), the minimum allowable energy.

Are ‘fluctuations’ real?

Again, it is matter of definitions. In reality, there isn’t anything fluctuating – when a field is at its minimum energy, that’s all one can say – i.e. that it is in its minimum state. It does not make sense to say that the position and momentum are changing in any way.

Summary

While zero-point energy is real, there is no theory or practice that allows its extraction. Theoretically, it’s extraction is ruled out. Any ideas of ‘getting something from nothing’ would violate the first law of thermodynamics, as well.

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Anuj Varma – who has written posts on Anuj Varma, Technology Architect.


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