Based on an analysis of the diffusive heat flow equation, we determine limits on the localization of heating of soft materials and biological tissues by electromagnetically excited nanoparticles. For heating by rf magnetic fields or heating by typical continuous wave lasers, the local temperature rise adjacent to magnetic or metallic nanoparticles is negligible. However, heat dissipation for a large number of nanoparticles dispersed in a macroscopic region of a material or tissue produces a global temperature rise that is orders of magnitude larger than the temperature rise adjacent to a single nanoparticle. One approach for producing a significant local temperature rise on nanometer length scales is heating by high-power pulsed or modulated lasers with low duty cycle.
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