In a post I did last December I hypothesized a bit about zero point energy and what the mechanics of it might be. I've got a couple of more new thoughts on the subject:
First of all, you have to accept the premise that "empty space" is not really empty, but comprised of particles or entities much smaller than anything we've as yet been able to directly detect. Now let's get very close to an atom and slow things way down.
From our vantage point the orbit of an electron is a ring. That is, we don't know where it is at any given time in relation to the nucleus. But if you get small and slow it down, the electron is at times on one side of the nucleus, and at other times on the other. This would make the atom either positively charged, negatively charged or relatively neutral with respect to a very close, very small particle at any given time depending on where the electron was in its orbit. Outside the electrons orbit, the stuff of empty space would drawn toward then repelled from the atom as the electron gets farther away, then closer to the "stuff". Inside the orbit of the electron you have the same dynamic. Imagine a bunch of very tiny particles trying to shoot the gaps as the electron orbits. Some succeed, some don't. This would be how energy flows through an atom. Some "stuff" finds its way inside the orbit of the electron and gets trapped (at least for a time) while some stuff escapes from within the orbit back to the outside world. An equilibrium point is reached where roughly the same amount of stuff gets in as gets out.
Naturally, we'd want to find a way to muck this up. That's how we change the behavior of atoms and their constituent parts and manipulate things to our advantage. I'll leave that to the geniuses with the expensive toys, but it could lead to new forms or sources of energy as well as manufacturing techniques.
Get on it. My flying car is way overdue.