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Heat transfer is the transition of thermal energy from a heated item to a cooler item. When an

object or fluid is at a different temperature than its surroundings or another object, transfer of

thermal energy, also known as heat transfer, or heat exchange, occurs in such a way that the body

and the surroundings reach thermal equilibrium. Heat transfer always occurs from a hot body to a

cold one, a result of the second law of thermodynamics. Where there is a temperature difference

between objects in proximity, heat transfer between them can never be stopped; it can only be

slowed down.

Classical transfer of thermal energy occurs only through conduction, convection, radiation or

any combination of these. Heat transfer associated with carriage of the heat of phase change by a

substance (such as steam which carries the heat of boiling) can be fundamentally treated as a

variation of convection heat transfer. In each case, the driving force for heat transfer is a difference

of temperature.

2. Heat conduction

Conduction is the transfer of thermal energy from a region of higher temperature to a region of

lower temperature through direct molecular communication within a medium or between mediums

indirect physical contact without a flow of the material medium. The transfer ofenergy could be

primarily by elastic impact as in fluids or by free electron diffusion as predominant in metals or

phonon vibration as predominant in insulators. In other words, heat is transferred by conduction

when adjacent atoms vibrate against one another, or as electrons move from atom to atom.

Conduction is greater in solids, where atoms are in constant close contact. In liquids (except

liquid metals) and gases, the molecules are usually further apart, giving a lower chance of

molecules colliding and passing on thermal energy. Heat conduction is directly analogous to

diffusion of particles into a fluid, in the situation where there are no fluid currents. This type of heat

diffusion differs from mass diffusion in behaviour, only in as much as it can occur in solids,

whereas mass diffusion is mostly limited to fluids. Metals (eg. copper) are usually the best

conductors of thermal energy. This is due to the way that metals are chemically bonded: metallic

bonds (as opposed to covalent or ionic bonds) have free-moving electrons and form a crystalline

structure, greatly aiding in the transfer of thermal energy. As density decreases so does conduction.

Therefore, fluids (and especially gases) are less conductive. This is due to the large distance

between atoms in a gas: fewer collisions between atoms means less conduction. Conductivity of

gases increases with temperature but only slightly with pressure near and above atmospheric. To

quantify the ease with which a particular medium conducts, the thermal conductivity, also known

as the conductivity constant or conduction coefficient, is used. This parameter is defined as the

infinitesimal quantity of thermal energy, Q, transmitted during an infinitesimal time interval dt

through a thickness dx, in a direction normal to a surface of area (A), due to a temperature

difference (dT):

( )

( )

,

,

T x t

Q

q x t A

dt x

o

k

c

=

c

(1)

where q is the so-called heat current. Eq. (1) is suitable to describe the heat transport along a

specified direction (here denoted by x). In general three-dimensional cases, the spatial variation of

the temperature must be taken into account and the temperature gradient should replace its partial

derivative in the right hand side of Eq. (1). Accordingly, the heat current will become a vector

quantity.

Thermal conductivity is a material property that is primarily dependent on the medium's phase,

temperature, density, and molecular bonding. Eq. (1) is valid when the medium is homogeneous.

When the heat transport occurs in inhomogeneous media, the thermal conductivity varies with x. A

particularly interesting case is when (x) has sharp discontinuities at interfaces between thermally

different environments. In such cases, the heat current across the interface obeys the Newtons

cooling law:

( ) q t A T q = A , (2)

where T = T

1

-T

2

is the temperature jump across the interface when the heat flows from region 1

towards region 2. The quantity is the so-called heat transfer coefficient and is a characteristic of

every thermal interface.

3. Example of a mixed problem with heat conduction and cooling phenomena

Consider a rod of a homogeneous material (e.g. a metal) placed in some atmospheric

environment. The rod is heated at one of its ends and the thermal energy propagates along it

towards the opposite end. Simultaneously, a cooling process takes place at every segment of the

rod. If the heat source is constant in time, a stationary temperature distribution will be achieved

along the rod. By focusing on some infinitesimal segment of the rod, between x and x + dx, one may

easily express the balance of thermal energy in the steady state in the following way: the heat q(x)dt

entering the segment through its end that is closest to the heat source will split in q(x+dx)dt that is

delivered through the other end and the heat dq(x)dt that is lost to the neighboring air by the cooling

process (Fig. 1).

Writing T(x) for the position derivative of the temperature (which is now constant in time), one

may apply Eq. (1) to both ends of the considered segment:

( ) ( )

( ) ( )

( ) ( ) ( ) ( )

q x dx AT x dx

q x dx q x A T x dx T x

q x AT x

k

k

k

' + = +

' ' ( + = +

`

' =

)

.

By further applying well-known rules of Calculus, one may find:

( ) ( )

dq x AT x k '' = . (3)

The heat current dq(x) is lost by cooling to the environment. Therefore Eq. Can now apply with A

replaced by the lateral area d dx of the considered segment and with T replaced by T(x)-T

a

, where

T

a

is the environmental air temperature and d is the diameter of the assumed cylindrical rod:

( ) ( )

a

dq x d T x T dx t q ( =

. (4)

Combining Eqs. (3) and (4), the following differential equation for the stationary temperature

distribution along the rod is readily obtained:

( ) ( )

2

4

0 ;

a

T x T x T

d

q

o o

k

'' ( = =

. (5)

This second-order differential equation has a straightforward general solution:

( )

x x

a

T x T Ae Be

o o

= + + , (6)

where A and B are undetermined constants. To specify these constants, the values of the

temperature at two different positions on the rod should be known. For example, take the

temperatures at the ends of the rod, T

h

and T

l

, as given: T(x = 0) = T

l

and T(x = L) = T

h

. Applying

these conditions to the solution (6), one may readily find:

( )

( )

1

1

2sinh

L L

h l a

A T T e T e

L

o o

o

(

=

, (7)

Figure 1: Sketch of the steady-state thermal

energy balance in an infinitesimal segment of the

test rod.

( )

( )

1

1

2sinh

L L

h l a

B T T e T e

L

o o

o

(

= +

, (8)

where sinh() is the hyperbolic sinus of the quantity .

4. Method of measuring the thermal conductivity of a metallic rod

The conditions described in the previous section can easily be obtained for a sample metallic

rod. A constant flux of thermal energy can be injected through one of its end and the stationary

temperature distribution can be measured along the rod in some specified points. Thus, an

experimental steady-state temperature distribution, T

exp

(x) is obtained. By modifying the parameter

in Eqs. (6)-(8), one may fit the experimental curve with the theoretical one. From the best-fit

value of one may then find the thermal conductivity of the sample (Eq. (5)). The only problem is

to have the corresponding heat transfer coefficient, , and the geometrical parameters of the rod.

The heat transfer coefficient can be determined separately, by a direct cooling experiment with

the whole rod initially heated at some temperature T

0

. The rod is then placed for cooling in the same

environment as before. Its average temperature is measured over time and the theoretical cooling

curve, T(t), is fitted with as a parameter on the experimental one. For the present version of the

experiment the value of for the (aluminium) rod has been determined: = 15,129 W/(m

2

K).

5. Experimental setup

The sample rod is placed vertically with its upper end

in tight contact to an aluminium receptacle where water is

kept at the boiling point by means of an immersion heater

(Figure 2).

Warning! Keep clear of the receptacles area to avoid

burns from erratic drops of hot water jumping out the vessel.

In the current version of this experiment, the rest of the

rod is in full contact with the environmental air whose

temperature can be measured with a thermocouple fixed in

rods neighborhood. Another thermocouple is used to

measure the local temperature by placing it in special

cavities of the rod. To allow better thermal contact that

thermocouples end should be greased with special thermo-

conductive paste. Temperatures are read in Celsius on a

two-screen universal measuring amplifier.

Figure 2: Experimental set-up for

thermal conductivity.

The cavities positions with respect to the lower end of the rod are the following: 0 cm (just at

the lower end); 7,0 cm; 10,4 cm; 14,0 cm; 17,5 cm; 21,0 cm; 24,4 cm; 28,0 cm; 31,5 cm; 35,0 cm;

38,5 cm. Astfel, L = 38,5 cm.

6. Procedure

The temperature at the lowest end of the rod is measured for some time, about 10 minutes after

the water became to boil in the receptacle. If the measured values seem to keep constant in time, the

steady-state of the cooling phenomenon is reached. From this moment on the temperature

distribution can be read by placing the greased end of the thermocouple in each alveolus of the rod,

starting from the very bottom one. The temperatures are recorded and then written in a text file by

means of the Notepad utility. The temperatures should be written one in a line by pressing Enter

after each value. The text file should be then saved as texp.txt in the folder entitled

Conductivitate metale, where the Mathcad 14 program Conductivitatea termica a

metalelor.xmcdz exists. After completing the text file open the program Conductivitatea termica a

metalelor.xmcdz. The program automatically computes the theoretical temperature distribution

(red curve) of Eq. (6) for a given value of the parameter . Also, the program reads the texp.txt

file and plots the experimental temperatures (in Kelvin blue dots) along with the theoretical

distribution. In the first yellow placeholder defining the value of the variable taer write the

average value of the air temperature near the sample rod during the experiment. Then modify the

parameter in the second yellow placeholder to get the theoretical temperature distribution as close

as possible to the experimental one. The procedure is termed as manual fitting. To run the program

each time a modification of the value of has been made one can simply move the cursor in line

with the graph and left click the mouse (alternatively, the key F9 can be pressed). When the best fit

has been attaint, read the corresponding value of the thermal conductivity in the brick placeholder in

line with the graph. The thermal conductivity is computed from the value of from the following

relation (see Eq. 5):

2

4

d

q

k

o

= . (9)

Notes

1) The value of to be entered in the second yellow placeholder of the fitting program is actually a

dimensionless parameter. The one used in Eq. 9 can be obtained from it through a multiplication by

the samples length, L.

2) Due to the probable bad thermal contact during the temperature measurements, the method is

prone to a systematic erroneous decrease of the thermal conductivity.

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