We derive shape-independent limits to the spectral radiative heat transfer rate between two closely spaced bodies, generalizing the concept of a blackbody to the case of near-field energy transfer. Through conservation of energy and reciprocity, we show that each body of susceptibility χ can emit and absorb radiation at enhanced rates bounded by |χ|2/Im χ, optimally mediated by near-field photon transfer proportional to 1/d2 across a separation distance d. Dipole-dipole and dipole-plate structures approach restricted versions of the limit, but common large-area structures do not exhibit the material enhancement factor and thus fall short of the general limit. By contrast, we find that particle arrays interacting in an idealized Born approximation (i.e., neglecting multiple scattering) exhibit both enhancement factors, suggesting the possibility of orders-of-magnitude improvement beyond previous designs and the potential for radiative heat transfer to be comparable to conductive heat transfer through air at room temperature, and significantly greater at higher temperatures.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy(all)