Radiative heat transfer (RHT) has a central role in entropy generation and energy transfer at length scales ranging from nanometres to light years1. The blackbody limit2, as established in Max Planck’s theory of RHT, provides a convenient metric for quantifying rates of RHT because it represents the maximum possible rate of RHT between macroscopic objects in the far field—that is, at separations greater than Wien’s wavelength3. Recent experimental work has verified the feasibility of overcoming the blackbody limit in the near field4–7, but heat-transfer rates exceeding the blackbody limit have not previously been demonstrated in the far field. Here we use custom-fabricated calorimetric nanostructures with embedded thermometers to show that RHT between planar membranes with sub-wavelength dimensions can exceed the blackbody limit in the far field by more than two orders of magnitude. The heat-transfer rates that we observe are in good agreement with calculations based on fluctuational electrodynamics. These findings may be directly relevant to various fields, such as energy conversion, atmospheric sciences and astrophysics, in which RHT is important.
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