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Optics Express







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The study of near field thermal radiation is gaining renewed interest thanks in part to their great potential in energy harvesting applications. It is well known that plasmonic or polaritonic materials exhibit strongly enhanced fields near the surface, but it is not trivial to quantitatively predict their impact on thermal radiation intensity in the near field. In this paper, we present a case study for a metamaterial that supports a surface plasmon mode in the terahertz region and consequently exhibits strongly enhanced near field thermal radiation at the plasmon resonance frequency. We implemented a finite-difference time-domain method that thermally excites the metamaterial with randomly fluctuating dipoles according to the fluctuation-dissipation theorem. The calculated thermal radiation from the metamaterial was then compared with the case of optical excitation by the plane wave incident on the metamaterial surface. The optical excitation couples only to the mode that satisfies the momentum matching condition while thermal excitation is not bound by it. As a result, the near field thermal radiation exhibits substantial differences compared to the optically excited surface plasmon modes. Under thermal excitation, the near field intensity at 1 µm away from metal surface of the metamaterial reaches a maximum enhancement of 43 fold over the far field at the frequency of the Brillouin zone boundary mode while the near field intensity under optical excitation reaches a maximum enhancement of 24 fold at the frequency of the Brillouin zone center mode. In addition, the peak near field intensity under thermal excitation shows a 4-fold enhancement over blackbody radiation with linear polarization radiation in the far field. The ability to precisely predict the local field intensity under thermal excitation is critical to the development of advanced energy devices that take advantage of this near field enhancement and could lead to the development of new generation of novel energy technology.