We propose a mechanism of active near-field heat transfer modulation relying on externally tunable metamaterials. A large modulation effect is observed and can be explained by the coupling of surface modes, which is dramatically varied in the presence of controllable magnetoelectric coupling in metamaterials. We finally discuss how a practical picosecond-scale thermal modulator can be made. This modulator allows manipulating nanoscale heat flux in an ultrafast and noncontact (by optical means) manner.

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