The ideal material for nanophotonic applications will have a large refractive index at optical frequencies, respond to both the electric and magnetic fields of light, support large optical chirality and anisotropy, confine and guide light at the nanoscale, and be able to modify the phase and amplitude of incoming radiation in a fraction of a wavelength. Artificial electromagnetic media, or metamaterials, based on metallic or polar dielectric nanostructures can provide many of these properties by coupling light to free electrons (plasmons) or phonons (phonon polaritons), respectively, but at the inevitable cost of significant energy dissipation and reduced device efficiency. Recently, however, there has been a shift in the approach to nanophotonics. Low-loss electromagnetic responses covering all four quadrants of possible permittivities and permeabilities have been achieved using completely transparent and high-refractive-index dielectric building blocks. Moreover, an emerging class of all-dielectric metamaterials consisting of anisotropic crystals has been shown to support large refractive index contrast between orthogonal polarizations of light. These advances have revived the exciting prospect of integrating exotic electromagnetic effects in practical photonic devices, to achieve, for example, ultrathin and efficient optical elements, and realize the long-standing goal of subdiffraction confinement and guiding of light without metals. In this Review, we present a broad outline of the whole range of electromagnetic effects observed using all-dielectric metamaterials: high-refractive-index nanoresonators, metasurfaces, zero-index metamaterials and anisotropic metamaterials. Finally, we discuss current challenges and future goals for the field at the intersection with quantum, thermal and silicon photonics, as well as biomimetic metasurfaces.
Control of thermal radiation at high temperatures is vital for waste heat recovery and for high-efficiency thermophotovoltaic (TPV) conversion. Previously, structural resonances utilizing gratings, thin film resonances, metasurfaces and photonic crystals were used to spectrally control thermal emission, often requiring lithographic structuring of the surface and causing significant angle dependence. In contrast, here, we demonstrate a refractory W-HfO2 metamaterial, which controls thermal emission through an engineered dielectric response function. The epsilon-near-zero frequency of a metamaterial and the connected optical topological transition (OTT) are adjusted to selectively enhance and suppress the thermal emission in the near-infrared spectrum, crucial for improved TPV efficiency. The near-omnidirectional and spectrally selective emitter is obtained as the emission changes due to material properties and not due to resonances or interference effects, marking a paradigm shift in thermal engineering approaches. We experimentally demonstrate the OTT in a thermally stable metamaterial at high temperatures of 1,000 °C.
The key feature of a thermophotovoltaic (TPV) emitter is the enhancement of thermal emission corresponding to energies just above the bandgap of the absorbing photovoltaic cell and simultaneous suppression of thermal emission below the bandgap. We show here that a single layer plasmonic coating can perform this task with high efficiency. Our key design principle involves tuning the epsilon-near-zero frequency (plasma frequency) of the metal acting as a thermal emitter to the electronic bandgap of the semiconducting cell. This approach utilizes the change in the reflectivity of a metal near its plasma frequency (epsilon-near-zero frequency) to lead to spectrally selective thermal emission, and can be adapted to large area coatings using high temperature plasmonic materials. We provide a detailed analysis of the spectral and angular performance of high temperature plasmonic coatings as TPV emitters. We show the potential of such high temperature plasmonic thermal emitter coatings (p-TECs) for narrowband near-field thermal emission. We also show the enhancement of near-surface energy density in graphene-multilayer thermal metamaterials due to a topological transition at an effective epsilon-near-zero frequency. This opens up spectrally selective thermal emission from graphene multilayers in the infrared frequency regime. Our design paves the way for the development of single layer p-TECs and graphene multilayers for spectrally selective radiative heat transfer applications.
Super-Planckian near-field radiative heat transfer allows effective heat transfer between a hot and a cold body to increase beyond the limits long known for black bodies. Until present, experimental techniques to measure the radiative heat flow relied on steady-state systems. Here, we present a dynamic measurement approach based on the transient plane source technique, which extracts thermal properties from a temperature transient caused by a step input power function. Using this versatile method, that requires only single sided contact, we measure enhanced radiative conduction up to 16 times higher than the blackbody limit on centimeter sized glass samples without any specialized sample preparation or nanofabrication.
Thermal radiation from an unpatterned object is similar to that of a gray body. The thermal emission is insensitive to polarization, shows only Lambertian angular dependence, and is well modeled as the product of the blackbody distribution and a scalar emissivity over large frequency bands. Here, we design, fabricate and experimentally characterize the spectral, polarization, angular and temperature dependence of a microstructured SiC dual band thermal infrared source; achieving independent control of the frequency and polarization of thermal radiation in two spectral bands. The measured emission of the device in the Reststrahlen band (10.3–12.7 µm) selectively approaches that of a blackbody, peaking at an emissivity of 0.85 at λx=11.75μm and 0.81 at λy=12.25μm. This effect arises due to the thermally excited phonon polaritons in silicon carbide. The control of thermal emission properties exhibited by the design is well suited for applications requiring infrared sources, gas or temperature sensors and nanoscale heat transfer. Our work paves the way for future silicon carbide based thermal metasurfaces.
Circularly polarized light can be obtained by using either polarization conversion or structural chirality. Here we reveal a fundamentally unrelated mechanism of generating circularly polarized light using coupled nonequilibrium sources. We show that thermal emission from a compact dimer of subwavelength, anisotropic antennas can be highly circularly polarized when the antennas are at unequal temperatures. Furthermore, the handedness of emitted light is flipped upon interchanging the temperatures of the antennas, thereby enabling reconfigurability of the polarization state lacked by most circularly polarized light sources. We describe the fundamental origin of this mechanism using rigorous fluctuational electrodynamic analysis and further provide practical examples for its experimental implementation. Apart from the technology applications in reconfigurable devices, communication, and sensing, this work motivates new inquiries of angular-momentum-related thermal-radiation phenomena using thermal nonequilibrium, without applying magnetic field.
High-temperature thermal photonics presents unique challenges for engineers as the database of materials that can withstand extreme environments are limited. In particular, ceramics with high temperature stability that can support coupled light-matter excitations, that is, polaritons, open new avenues for engineering radiative heat transfer. Hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) is an emerging ceramic 2D material that possesses low-loss polaritons in two spectrally distinct mid-infrared frequency bands. The hyperbolic nature of these frequency bands leads to a large local density of states (LDOS). In 2D form, these polaritonic states are dark modes, bound to the material. In cylindrical form, boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) create subwavelength particles capable of coupling these dark modes to radiative ones. In this study, we leverage the high-frequency optical phonons present in BNNTs to create strong mid-IR thermal antenna emitters at high temperatures (938 K). Through direct measurement of thermal emission of a disordered system of BNNTs, we confirm their radiative polaritonic modes and show that the antenna behavior can be observed even in a disordered system. These are among the highest-frequency optical phonon polaritons that exist and could be used as high-temperature mid-IR thermal nanoantenna sources.
The interplay of spin angular momentum and thermal radiation is a frontier area of interest to nanophotonics as well as topological physics. Here, we show that a thick planar slab of a nonreciprocal material, despite being at thermal equilibrium with its environment, can exhibit nonzero photon spin angular momentum and nonzero radiative heat flux in its vicinity. We identify them as the persistent thermal photon spin and the persistent planar heat current respectively. With a practical example system, we reveal that the fundamental origin of these phenomena is connected to the spin-momentum locking of thermally excited evanescent waves. We also discover spin magnetic moment of surface polaritons that further clarifies these features. We then propose an imaging experiment based on Brownian motion that allows one to witness these surprising features by directly looking at them using a lab microscope. We further demonstrate the universal behavior of these near-field thermal radiation phenomena through a comprehensive analysis of gyroelectric, gyromagnetic and magneto-electric nonreciprocal materials. Together, these results expose a surprisingly little explored research area of thermal spin photonics with prospects for new avenues related to non-Hermitian topological photonics and radiative heat transport.
We develop the fluctuational electrodynamics of metamaterials with hyperbolic dispersion and show the existence of broadband thermal emission beyond the black body limit in the near field. This arises due to the thermal excitation of unique bulk metamaterial modes, which do not occur in conventional media. We consider a practical realization of the hyperbolic metamaterial and estimate that the effect will be observable using the characteristic dispersion (topological transitions) of the metamaterial states. Our work paves the way for engineering the near-field thermal emission using metamaterials.
We propose a method for engineering thermally excited far field electromagnetic radiation using epsilon-near-zero metamaterials and introduce a new class of artificial media: epsilon-near-pole metamaterials. We also introduce the concept of high temperature plasmonics as conventional metamaterial building blocks have relatively poor thermal stability. Using our approach, the angular nature, spectral position, and width of the thermal emission and optical absorption can be finely tuned for a variety of applications. In particular, we show that these metamaterial emitters near 1500 K can be used as part of thermophotovoltaic devices to surpass the full concentration Shockley-Queisser limit of 41%. Our work paves the way for high temperature thermal engineering applications of metamaterials.
We explore the near-field radiative thermal energy transfer properties of hyperbolic metamaterials. The presence of unique electromagnetic states in a broad bandwidth leads to super-planckian thermal energy transfer between metamaterials separated by a nano-gap. We consider practical phonon-polaritonic metamaterials for thermal engineering in the mid-infrared range and show that the effect exists in spite of the losses, absorption and finite unit cell size. For thermophotovoltaic energy conversion applications requiring energy transfer in the near-infrared range we introduce high temperature hyperbolic metamaterials based on plasmonic materials with a high melting point. Our work paves the way for practical high temperature radiative thermal energy transfer applications of hyperbolic metamaterials.
We give a detailed account of equilibrium and non-equilibrium fluctuational electrodynamics of hyperbolic metamaterials. We show the unifying aspects of two different approaches; one utilizes the second kind of fluctuation dissipation theorem and the other makes use of the scattering method. We analyze the near-field of hyperbolic media at finite temperatures and show that the lack of spatial coherence can be attributed to the multi-modal nature of super-Planckian thermal emission. We also adopt the analysis to phonon-polaritonic super-lattice metamaterials and describe the regimes suitable for experimental verification of our predicted effects. The results reveal that far-field thermal emission spectra are dominated by epsilon-near-zero and epsilon-near-pole responses as expected from Kirchoff's laws. Our work should aid both theorists and experimentalists to study complex media and engineer equilibrium and non-equilibrium fluctuations for applications in thermal photonics.
The traditional approaches of exciting plasmons consist of either using electrons (e.g., electron energy loss spectroscopy) or light (Kretchman and Otto geometry) while more recently plasmons have been excited even by single photons. A different approach: thermal excitation of a plasmon resonance at high temperatures using alternate plasmonic media was proposed by S. Molesky et al. [Opt. Express 21, A96–A110 (2013)]. Here, we show how the long-standing search for a high temperature narrowband near-field emitter for thermophotovoltaics can be fulfilled by thermally exciting plasmons. We also describe a method to control Wein's displacement law in the near-field using high temperature epsilon-near-zero metamaterials. Finally, we show that our work opens up an interesting direction of research for the field of slow light: thermal emission control.
We ask the question, what are the ideal characteristics of a near-field thermophotovoltaic cell? Our search leads us to a reformulation of near-field radiative heat transfer in terms of the joint density of electronic states of the emitter-absorber pair in the thermophotovoltaic system. This form reveals that semiconducting materials with narrowband absorption spectra are critical to the energy-conversion efficiency. This essential feature is unavailable in conventional bulk semiconductor cells but can be obtained using low-dimensional materials. Our results show that the presence of matched van Hove singularities resulting from quantum confinement in the emitter and absorber of a thermophotovoltaic cell boosts both the magnitude and spectral selectivity of radiative heat transfer, dramatically improving energy-conversion efficiency. We provide a model near-field thermophotovoltaic system design making use of this idea by employing the van Hove singularities present in carbon nanotubes. Shockley-Queisser analysis shows that the predicted heat transfer characteristics of this model device are fundamentally better than existing thermophotovoltaic designs. Our work paves the way for the use of quantum dots, quantum wells, two-dimensional semiconductors, semiconductor nanowires, and carbon nanotubes as future materials for thermophotovoltaic cells.
Nearly all thermal radiation phenomena involving materials with linear response can be accurately described via semi-classical theories of light. Here, we go beyond these traditional paradigms to study a nonlinear system that, as we show, requires quantum theory of damping. Specifically, we analyze thermal radiation from a resonant system containing a χ (2) nonlinear medium and supporting resonances at frequencies ω1 and ω2 ≈ 2ω1, where both resonators are driven only by intrinsic thermal fluctuations. Within our quantum formalism, we reveal new possibilities for shaping the thermal radiation. We show that the resonantly enhanced nonlinear interaction allows frequency-selective enhancement of thermal emission through upconversion, surpassing the well-known blackbody limits associated with linear media. Surprisingly, we also find that the emitted thermal light exhibits non-trivial statistics (g (2) (0) , ∼2) and biphoton intensity correlations (at two distinct frequencies). We highlight that these features can be observed in the near future by heating a properly designed nonlinear system, without the need for any external signal. Our work motivates new interdisciplinary inquiries combining the fields of nonlinear photonics, quantum optics and thermal science.
Controlling and detecting thermal radiation is of vital importance for varied applications ranging from energy conversion systems and nanoscale information processing devices to infrared imaging, spectroscopy, and sensing. We review the field of high-temperature thermal photonics, which aims to control the spectrum, polarization, tunability, switchability, and directionality of heat radiation from engineered materials in extreme environments. We summarize the candidate materials that are being pursued by the community that have simultaneous polaritonic/plasmonic properties as well as high-temperature stability. We also provide a detailed discussion of common photonic platforms, including metagratings, photonic crystals, and metamaterials used for thermal emission engineering. We review broad applications, including thermophotovoltaics, high-temperature radiative cooling, thermal radiation sources, and noisy nanoscale thermal devices. By providing an overview of the recent achievements in this field, we hope this review can accelerate progress to overcome major outstanding problems in modern thermal engineering.
A chiral absorber of light can emit spin-polarized (circularly polarized) thermal radiation based on Kirchhoff’s law which equates spin-resolved emissivity with spin-resolved absorptivity for reciprocal media at thermal equilibrium. No such law is known for nonreciprocal media. In this work, we discover three spin-resolved Kirchhoff’s laws of thermal radiation applicable for both reciprocal and nonreciprocal planar media. In particular, these laws are applicable to multi-layered or composite slabs of generic bianisotropic material classes which include (uniaxial or biaxial) birefringent crystals, (gyrotropic) Weyl semimetals, magnetized semiconductors, plasmas, ferromagnets and ferrites, (magnetoelectric) topological insulators, metamaterials and multiferroic media. We also propose an experiment to verify these laws using a single system of doped indium antimonide (InSb) thin film in an external magnetic field. Furthermore, we reveal a surprising result that the planar slabs of all these material classes can emit partially circularly polarized thermal light without requiring any surface patterning, and identify planar configurations which can experience nontrivial thermal optomechanical forces and torques upon thermal emission into the external environment at lower temperature (nonequilibrium). Our work also provides a new fundamental insight of detailed balance of angular momentum (in addition to energy) of equilibrium thermal radiation, and paves the way for practical functionalities based on thermal radiation using nonreciprocal bianisotropic materials.
Spin and orbital angular momentum of light plays a central role in quantum nanophotonics as well as topological electrodynamics. Here, we show that the thermal radiation from finite-size bodies comprising nonreciprocal magneto-optical materials can exert a spin torque even in global thermal equilibrium. Moving beyond the paradigm of near-field heat transfer, we calculate near-field radiative angular momentum transfer between finite-size nonreciprocal objects by combining Rytov's fluctuational electrodynamics with the theory of optical angular momentum. We prove that a single magneto-optical cubic particle in nonequilibrium with its surroundings experiences a torque in the presence of an applied magnetic field (T-symmetry breaking). Furthermore, even in global thermal equilibrium, two particles with misaligned gyrotropy axes experience equal-magnitude torques with opposite signs which tend to align their gyrotropy axes parallel to each other. Our results are universally applicable to semiconductors like InSb (magnetoplasmas) as well as Weyl semimetals which exhibit the anomalous Hall effect (gyrotropic) at infrared frequencies. Our work paves the way towards near-field angular momentum transfer mediated by thermal fluctuations for nanoscale devices.