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Near-field radiative heat transfer between parallel structures in the deep subwavelength regime

Abstract

Thermal radiation between parallel objects separated by deep subwavelength distances and subject to large thermal gradients (>100 K) can reach very high magnitudes, while being concentrated on a narrow frequency distribution. These unique characteristics could enable breakthrough technologies for thermal transport control1,2,3 and electricity generation4,5,6,7,8 (for example, by radiating heat exactly at the bandgap frequency of a photovoltaic cell). However, thermal transport in this regime has never been achieved experimentally due to the difficulty of maintaining large thermal gradients over nanometre-scale distances while avoiding other heat transfer mechanisms, namely conduction. Here, we show near-field radiative heat transfer between parallel SiC nanobeams in the deep subwavelength regime. The distance between the beams is controlled by a high-precision micro-electromechanical system (MEMS). We exploit the mechanical stability of nanobeams under high tensile stress to minimize thermal buckling effects, therefore keeping control of the nanometre-scale separation even at large thermal gradients. We achieve an enhancement of heat transfer of almost two orders of magnitude with respect to the far-field limit (corresponding to a 42 nm separation) and show that we can maintain a temperature gradient of 260 K between the cold and hot surfaces at 100 nm distance.

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Figure 1: Device overview and operating principle.
Figure 2: Exploiting tensile stress to avoid thermomechanical deformations.
Figure 3: Measurement of temperature changes as a function of nanobeam separation.
Figure 4: Heat transfer in the deep subwavelength regime over a wide range of temperatures.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for award FA8650-14-1-7406, supervised by Avram Bar-Cohen. This work made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research Shared Facilities, which are supported through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers programme (DMR-1120296), and the Cornell NanoScale Facility, a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, which is supported by the NSF (grant ECCS-0335765). R.S.G. held subsequent postdoctoral fellowships from the Fonds de recherche du Québec−Nature et Technologies (FRQNT) and from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) during this work.

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All authors participated in conceiving the experiment, discussed the results and commented on the manuscript. R.S.G. conceived of the MEMS platform, performed the µ-SiC material characterization, fabricated the device, performed the experimental measurements and drafted the manuscript. L.Z. performed the Fourier modal method heat transfer simulations. R.S.G. and L.Z. interpreted the experimental data.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michal Lipson.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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St-Gelais, R., Zhu, L., Fan, S. et al. Near-field radiative heat transfer between parallel structures in the deep subwavelength regime. Nature Nanotech 11, 515–519 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2016.20

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