Radiative heat conductances between dielectric and metallic parallel plates with nanoscale gaps


Recent experiments1,2,3,4 have demonstrated that radiative heat transfer between objects separated by nanometre-scale gaps considerably exceeds the predictions of far-field radiation theories5. Exploiting this near-field enhancement is of great interest for emerging technologies such as near-field thermophotovoltaics and nano-lithography6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 because of the expected increases in efficiency, power conversion or resolution in these applications7,11. Past measurements, however, were performed using tip-plate or sphere-plate configurations and failed to realize the orders of magnitude increases in radiative heat currents predicted from near-field radiative heat transfer theory9,14. Here, we report 100- to 1,000-fold enhancements (at room temperature) in the radiative conductance between parallel-planar surfaces at gap sizes below 100 nm, in agreement with the predictions of near-field theories9,14. Our measurements were performed in vacuum gaps between prototypical materials (SiO2–SiO2, Au–Au, SiO2–Au and Au–Si) using two microdevices and a custom-built nanopositioning platform15, which allows precise control over a broad range of gap sizes (from <100 nm to 10 μm). Our experimental set-up will enable systematic studies of a variety of near-field-based thermal phenomena16,17,18, with important implications for thermophotovoltaic applications7,19,20, that have been predicted but have defied experimental verification.

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Figure 1: Microdevices for probing near-field radiation between parallel-planar surfaces.
Figure 2: Measurement of near-field radiative heat transfer between parallel-planar surfaces.
Figure 3: Optimization of parallelization and demonstration of enhanced heat conductances in sub-100 nm gaps between SiO2 surfaces.
Figure 4: Enhanced heat conductances in <100 nm gaps of Au surfaces and near-field radiation between dissimilar surfaces.


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P.R. and E.M. acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation (award nos. CBET 1235691 and CBET 1509691; nanopositioning platform). P.R. acknowledges support from DOE–BES through a grant from the Scanning Probe Microscopy Division (award no. DE-SC0004871; instrumentation). The authors thank J.C. Cuevas for discussions, and acknowledge the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility (LNF) for facilitating the nanofabrication of devices.

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This work was conceived by P.R. and E.M. The near-field conductance data were obtained by B.S., Y.G. and A.F. under the supervision of E.M and P.R. The devices were designed and fabricated by D.T. and B.S. Modelling was performed by A.F. and B.S. The manuscript was written by P.R. and E.M. with comments and inputs from all authors.

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Correspondence to Pramod Reddy or Edgar Meyhofer.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Song, B., Thompson, D., Fiorino, A. et al. Radiative heat conductances between dielectric and metallic parallel plates with nanoscale gaps. Nature Nanotech 11, 509–514 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2016.17

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