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Corner- and edge-mode enhancement of near-field radiative heat transfer


It is well established that near-field radiative heat transfer (NFRHT) can exceed Planck’s blackbody limit1 by orders of magnitude owing to the tunnelling of evanescent electromagnetic frustrated and surface modes2,3,4, as has been demonstrated experimentally for NFRHT between two large parallel surfaces5,6,7 and between two subwavelength membranes8,9. However, although nanostructures can also sustain a much richer variety of localized electromagnetic modes at their corners and edges10,11, the contributions of such additional modes to further enhancing NFRHT remain unexplored. Here we demonstrate both theoretically and experimentally a physical mechanism of NFRHT mediated by the corner and edge modes, and show that it can dominate the NFRHT in the ‘dual nanoscale regime’ in which both the thickness of the emitter and receiver, and their gap spacing, are much smaller than the thermal photon wavelengths. For two coplanar 20-nm-thick silicon carbide membranes separated by a 100-nm vacuum gap, the NFRHT coefficient at room temperature is both predicted and measured to be 830 W m2 K1, which is 5.5 times larger than that for two infinite silicon carbide surfaces separated by the same gap, and 1,400 times larger than the corresponding blackbody limit accounting for the geometric view factor between two coplanar membranes. This enhancement is dominated by the electromagnetic corner and edge modes, which account for 81% of the NFRHT between the silicon carbide membranes. These findings are important for future NFRHT applications in thermal management and energy conversion.

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Fig. 1: Principle of NFRHT in the dual nanoscale regime and a device for measuring it.
Fig. 2: Measured and modelled radiative heat transfer coefficients between coplanar SiC membranes.
Fig. 3: Theoretical analysis of NFRHT enhancement mediated by electromagnetic corner and edge modes in the dual nanoscale regime between two coplanar SiC membranes.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors on request.

Code availability

The code used to calculate near-field radiative heat transfer between membranes based on the discrete system Green’s function method has been deposited on Zenodo at (ref. 44).


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L.T. and C.D. gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Marjorie Jackson Endowed Fellowship Fund, the Howard Penn Brown Chair, and the Army Research Laboratory as part of the Collaborative for Hierarchical Agile and Responsive Materials (CHARM) under Cooperative Agreement No. W911NF-19-2-0119. L.M.C. and M.F. acknowledge the financial support from the National Science Foundation (grant number CBET-1952210) and from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (funding reference number RGPIN-2023-03513). This work was partially performed at the UC Berkeley Marvell Nanolab. We appreciate the support of the staff and facilities that made this work possible. This research used the Savio computational cluster resource provided by the Berkeley Research Computing programme at the University of California, Berkeley (supported by the UC Berkeley Chancellor, Vice Chancellor for Research, and Chief Information Officer).

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Authors and Affiliations



This work was initialized and conceived by L.T. Design, fabrication and testing of the devices were performed by L.T. under the supervision of C.D. Numerical simulations were performed by L.T. with help of L.M.C. under the supervision of M.F. All authors contributed to the data analysis. The paper was written by L.T., M.F. and C.D.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Mathieu Francoeur or Chris Dames.

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Nature thanks Jean-Jacques Greffet, Linxiao Zhu and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Device fabrication.

Main steps for fabricating the suspended devices used for measuring NFRHT between two SiC membranes. More information is given in Supplementary Information Section 1.

Extended Data Fig. 2 DSGF calculated thermal conductance Grad at 300 K between two 120, 50, and 20 nm thick SiC membranes separated by a vacuum gap d = 100 nm.

The results correspond to those shown in Fig. 3a after integrating over all frequencies ω and multiplying by t and L.

Extended Data Fig. 3 DSGF calculated contributions from propagating waves to NFRHT between two SiC membranes, using the gaps d given in Supplementary Table 1.

The heat transfer coefficient due to propagating (prop) waves is plotted in hollow points. The total heat transfer coefficient, accounting for both propagating and evanescent waves, is also included for comparison as solid points (the results correspond to the case where the nominal values of the gap sizes are used and the tilts are not considered, or roughly the middle of the theoretical bands as shown in Fig. 2 of the main text). Propagating waves account for less than 1% of the total heat transfer for all temperatures and membrane thicknesses.

Extended Data Fig. 4 DSGF calculations of the spatial distribution of power density dissipated at 300 K between two 120, 50, and 20 nm thick SiC membranes separated by a vacuum gap d = 100 nm.

Positive and negative values of the color bar represent heat gain and heat loss, respectively. The simulations are respectively performed for L values of 8, 4, and 2 µm for 120, 50, and 20 nm thick membranes, all with w = 1 µm to obtain converged results (see Supplementary Section 7 for more details on the convergence of DSGF simulations).

Supplementary information

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Tang, L., Corrêa, L.M., Francoeur, M. et al. Corner- and edge-mode enhancement of near-field radiative heat transfer. Nature 629, 67–73 (2024).

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