Annual Review of Condensed Matter Physics ( IF 14.833 ) Pub Date : 2017-03-31 00:00:00 , DOI: 10.1146/annurev-conmatphys-031016-025203 Giuseppe Bimonte, Thorsten Emig, Mehran Kardar, Matthias Krüger
Quantum-thermal fluctuations of electromagnetic waves are the cornerstone of quantum statistics and inherent to phenomena such as thermal radiation and van der Waals forces. Although the principles are found in elementary texts, recent experimental and technological advances make it necessary to come to terms with counterintuitive consequences at short scales—the so-called near-field regime. We focus on three manifestations: (a) The Stefan–Boltzmann law describes radiation from macroscopic bodies but fails for small objects. (b) The heat transfer between two bodies at close proximity is dominated by evanescent waves and can be orders of magnitude larger than the classical (propagating) contribution. (c) Casimir forces, dominant at submicron separation, are not sufficiently explored for objects at different temperatures (at least experimentally). We explore these phenomena using fluctuational quantum electrodynamics (QED), introduced by Rytov in the 1950s, combined with scattering formalisms. This enables investigation of different material properties, shapes, separations, and arrangements.