Photonic cooling of matter has enabled both access to unexplored states of matter, such as Bose–Einstein condensates, and novel approaches to solid-state refrigeration1–3. Critical to these photonic cooling approaches is the use of low-entropy coherent radiation from lasers, which makes the cooling process thermodynamically feasible4–6. Recent theoretical work7–9 has suggested that photonic solid-state cooling may be accomplished by tuning the chemical potential of photons without using coherent laser radiation, but such cooling has not been experimentally realized. Here we report an experimental demonstration of photonic cooling without laser light using a custom-fabricated nanocalorimetric device and a photodiode. We show that when they are in each other’s near-field—that is, when the size of the vacuum gap between the planar surfaces of the calorimetric device and a reverse-biased photodiode is reduced to tens of nanometres—solid-state cooling of the calorimetric device can be accomplished via a combination of photon tunnelling, which enhances the transport of photons across nanoscale gaps, and suppression of photon emission from the photodiode due to a change in the chemical potential of the photons under an applied reverse bias. This demonstration of active nanophotonic cooling—without the use of coherent laser radiation—lays the experimental foundation for systematic exploration of nanoscale photonics and optoelectronics for solid-state refrigeration and on-chip device cooling.
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