The interaction between electrically neutral surfaces at sub-micron separation is dominated by the force arising from quantum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field, known as the Casimir force. This effect has been witnessing a renewed interest because of its potential impact in micro- and nanotechnology. Most recent literature has focused on the study of the attraction between bulk-like metallic surfaces in vacuum. Because electromagnetic fluctuations depend on the dielectric function of the surfaces, the use of different materials might reveal new aspects of the Casimir force and suggest novel solutions for the design of micro- and nanofabricated devices. Following this approach, we have measured the Casimir force using Hydrogen Switchable Mirrors - a metallic mirror that switches from highly reflective to transparent when exposed to hydrogen. The comparison of the results obtained in air and in hydrogen sheds light on the relative contribution of visible and infrared wavelengths to the Casimir interaction. We have also studied the dependence of the Casimir force on the metallic film thickness and have shown the effect of the skin-depth. The final section of the paper discusses the torque induced by quantum fluctuations on two birefringent plates and describes an experiment that should allow us to observe this phenomenon. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.