Universal modal radiation laws for all thermal emitters

David A.B. Miller, Linxiao Zhu, Shanhui Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


We derive four laws relating the absorptivity and emissivity of thermal emitters. Unlike the original Kirchhoff radiation law derivations, these derivations include diffraction, and so are valid also for small objects, and can also cover nonreciprocal objects. The proofs exploit two recent approaches. First, we express all fields in terms of the mode-converter basis sets of beams; these sets, which can be uniquely established for any linear optical object, give orthogonal input beams that are coupled one-by-one to orthogonal output beams. Second, we consider thought experiments using universal linear optical machines, which allow us to couple appropriate beams and black bodies. Two of these laws can be regarded as rigorous extensions of previously known laws: One gives a modal version of a radiation law for reciprocal objects-the absorptivity of any input beam equals the emissivity into the "backward" (i.e., phase-conjugated) version of that beam; another gives the overall equality of the sums of the emissivities and the absorptivities for any object, including nonreciprocal ones. The other two laws, valid for reciprocal and nonreciprocal objects, are quite different from previous relations. One shows universal equivalence of the absorptivity of each mode-converter input beam and the emissivity into its corresponding scattered output beam. The other gives unexpected equivalences of absorptivity and emissivity for broad classes of beams. Additionally, we prove these orthogonal mode-converter sets of input and output beams are the ones that maximize absorptivities and emissivities, respectively, giving these beams surprising additional physical meaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4336-4341
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 25 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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