Abstract

Thermal radiative emission from a hot surface to a cold surface plays an important role in many applications, including energy conversion, thermal management, lithography, data storage and thermal microscopy1,2. Recent studies3,4,5 on bulk materials have confirmed long-standing theoretical predictions indicating that when the gap between the surfaces is reduced to tens of nanometres, well below the peak wavelength of the blackbody emission spectrum, the radiative heat flux increases by orders of magnitude. However, despite recent attempts6, whether such enhancements can be obtained in nanoscale dielectric films thinner than the penetration depth of thermal radiation, as suggested by theory, remains experimentally unknown. Here, using an experimental platform that comprises a heat-flow calorimeter with a resolution of about 100 pW (ref. 7), we experimentally demonstrate a dramatic increase in near-field radiative heat transfer, comparable to that obtained between bulk materials, even for very thin dielectric films (50–100 nm) when the spatial separation between the hot and cold surfaces is comparable to the film thickness. We explain these results by analysing the spectral characteristics and mode shapes of surface phonon polaritons, which dominate near-field radiative heat transport in polar dielectric thin films.

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Acknowledgements

P.R. and E.M. acknowledge support from the Army Research Office (W911NF-12-1-0612; device fabrication) and the National Science Foundation (CBET 1235691; instrumentation and measurements). J.C.C. acknowledges financial support from the Spanish MICINN (contract no. FIS2011-28851-C02-01) and thanks E. Moreno for helpful discussions. V.F-H. acknowledges financial support from ‘la Caixa’ Foundation. F.J.G-V. and J.F. acknowledge support from the European Research Council (ERC-2011-AdG proposal no. 290981). The authors acknowledge the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility (LNF) for facilitating the nanofabrication of devices.

Author information

Author notes

    • Bai Song
    • , Yashar Ganjeh
    •  & Seid Sadat

    These authors contributed equally to this paper

Affiliations

  1. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA

    • Bai Song
    • , Yashar Ganjeh
    • , Seid Sadat
    • , Dakotah Thompson
    • , Anthony Fiorino
    • , Pramod Reddy
    •  & Edgar Meyhofer
  2. Departamento de Física Teórica de la Materia Condensada and Condensed Matter Physics Center (IFIMAC), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid 28049, Spain

    • Víctor Fernández-Hurtado
    • , Johannes Feist
    • , Francisco J. Garcia-Vidal
    •  & Juan Carlos Cuevas
  3. Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC), Donostia/San Sebastián 20018, Spain

    • Francisco J. Garcia-Vidal
  4. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.

    • Pramod Reddy

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Contributions

The work was conceived by P.R. and E.M. The experiments were performed by B.S., Y.G. and A.F. under supervision by E.M. and P.R. The devices were designed and fabricated by S.S., D.T. and B.S. Modelling was performed by V.F-H. and J.F. under the supervision of F.J.G-V. and J.C.C. The manuscript was written by P.R., E.M. and J.C.C. with comments and input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Pramod Reddy or Edgar Meyhofer.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2015.6

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