Fluctuating-surface-current formulation of radiative heat transfer: Theory and applications

Alejandro W. Rodriguez, M. T.H. Reid, Steven G. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


We describe a fluctuating-surface current formulation of radiative heat transfer between bodies of arbitrary shape that exploits efficient and sophisticated techniques from the surface-integral-equation formulation of classical electromagnetic scattering. Unlike previous approaches to nonequilibrium fluctuations that involve scattering matrices - relating "incoming" and "outgoing" waves from each body - our approach is formulated in terms of "unknown" surface currents, laying at the surfaces of the bodies, that need not satisfy any wave equation. We show that our formulation can be applied as a spectral method to obtain fast-converging semianalytical formulas in high-symmetry geometries using specialized spectral bases that conform to the surfaces of the bodies (e.g., Fourier series for planar bodies or spherical harmonics for spherical bodies), and can also be employed as a numerical method by exploiting the generality of surface meshes/grids to obtain results in more complicated geometries (e.g., interleaved bodies as well as bodies with sharp corners). In particular, our formalism allows direct application of the boundary-element method, a robust and powerful numerical implementation of the surface-integral formulation of classical electromagnetism, which we use to obtain results in new geometries, such as the heat transfer between finite slabs, cylinders, and cones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number054305
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 30 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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