Abstract

Non-contact heat transfer between two bodies is more efficient than the Stefan–Boltzmann law when the distances are on the nanometer scale (shorter than Wien’s wavelength), due to contributions of thermally excited near fields. This is usually described in terms of the fluctuation electrodynamics due to Rytov, Levin, and co-workers. Recent experiments in the tip–plane geometry have reported “giant” heat currents between metallic (gold) objects, exceeding even the expectations of Rytov theory. We discuss a simple model that describes the distance dependence of the data and permits us to compare to a plate–plate geometry, as in the proximity (or Derjaguin) approximation. We extract an area density of active channels which is of the same order for the experiments performed by the groups of Kittel (Oldenburg) and Reddy (Ann Arbor). It is argued that mechanisms that couple phonons to an oscillating surface polarization are likely to play a role.

© 2019 Optical Society of America

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