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Abstract. We consider the Casimir force acting on a d-dimensional rectangular piston due to massless scalar field with periodic, Dirichlet and Neumann boundary conditions and electromagnetic field with perfect electric conductor and perfect magnetic conductor boundary conditions. The Casimir energy in a rectangular cavity is derived using cut-off method. It is shown that the divergent part of the Casimir energy does not contribute to the Casimir force acting on the piston, thus render an unambiguously defined Casimir force acting on the piston. At any temperature, it is found that the Casimir force acting on the piston increases from − ∞ to 0 when the separation a between the piston and the opposite wall increases from 0 to ∞. This implies that the Casimir force is always an attractive force pulling the piston towards the closer wall, and the magnitude of the force gets larger as the separation a gets smaller. Explicit exact expressions for the Casimir force for small and large plate separations and for low and high temperatures are computed. The limits of the Casimir force acting on the piston when some pairs of transversal plates are large are also derived. An interesting result regarding the influence of temperature is that in contrast to the conventional result that the leading term of the Casimir force acting on a wall of a rectangular cavity at high temperature is the Stefan–Boltzmann (or black body radiation) term which is of order T d+1, it is found that the contributions of this term from the two regions separating the piston cancel with each other in the case of piston. The high temperature leading order term of the Casimir force acting on the piston is of order T, which shows that the Casimir force has a nontrivial classical � → 0 limit. Explicit formulas for the classical limit are computed. 1

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