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Understanding Heat Transfer, Conduction, Convection and Radiation

show understanding that thermal energy is transferred from a region of higher temperature to a region of lower temperature describe, in molecular terms, how energy transfer occurs in solids describe, in terms of density changes, convection in fluids explain that energy transfer of a body by radiation does not require a material medium and the rate of energy transfer is affected by:
colour and texture of the surface surface temperature surface area

apply the concept of thermal energy transfer to everyday applications


1. Describe the three methods of heat transfer by conduction (in solid matters), convection (in liquid and gaseous matters) and radiation 2. Identify matter classified as conductor and insulator of heat

Indicator :
STUDENTS SHOULD BE ABLE TO 1. Explain the heat flow by conduction (in solid matters), convection (in liquid and gaseous matters) and radiation. 2. Mention the examples of conductor and insulator.

The Three Processes of Heat Flow :



Heat Transfer
Thermal energy flows from a region of higher temperature to a region of lower temperature.
This transfer of energy is called heat transfer Occurs in 3 ways:
Conduction, Convection, Radiation.

When 2 regions are at the same temperature, it is in thermal equilibrium.

No nett transfer of thermal energy

Heat Transfer
Heat always moves from a warmer place to a cooler place. Hot objects in a cooler room will cool to room temperature. Cold objects in a warmer room will heat up to room temperature.

Conduction is the process of thermal energy transfer without any movement of the material itself.

Conduction is a way of transferring heat through the contact of objects.

Conductors of Heat


Insulators of Heat


Process of Conduction
Thermal energy is passed along the rod by the vibrating molecules.
Molecules pass the vibration to neighboring molecules

Vibration transfers energy from molecule to molecule until cold end reaches same temperature as hot end No net movement of molecule during conduction.


Conductors and Insulators

Some examples of conductors and insulators:
Good conductors Gold Silver Copper Iron Brass Aluminium Poor conductors (insulators) Glass Stone Water Plastics Wood Polystyrene foam* Wool* fibreglass*

* these materials has air pockets. Air is a very good insulator.


Why are metal such good conductors of heat?

Conduction takes place through vibrating molecules as well as free electrons in metals. When heated, free electrons gain energy and move faster. They move in the spaces between atoms before colliding with some atoms and transferring energy to them. Much faster than conduction by vibration of molecules in non-metals.




When you heat a metal strip at one end, the heat travels to the other end.

As you heat the metal, the particles vibrate, these vibrations make the adjacent particles vibrate, and so on and so on, the vibrations are passed along the metal and so is the heat. We call this? Conduction

Uses of conductors and insulators

Good conductors (when heat is to be transmitted quickly) Cooking utensils Heat exchangers Heat sinks Insulators (Used to reduce heat transfer) Mittens/gloves Woolen jackets (traps air) Styrofoam containers


Metals are different

The outer e______ lectrons of metal atoms drift, and are free to move. When the metal is heated, this sea of inetic electrons gain k_____ energy and transfer it throughout the metal.

Insulators, such as w___ ood and p____, lastic do not have this sea of electrons which is why they do not conduct heat as well as metals.

Why does metal feel colder than wood, if they are both at the same temperature?
Metal is a conductor, wood is an insulator. Metal conducts the heat away from your hands. Wood does not conduct the heat away from your hands as well as the metal, so the wood feels warmer than the metal.

Practice 1


Convection is the transfer of thermal energy by means of currents in a fluid
fluid: liquid or gas

Convection only occur in fluids because it involves the bulk movement of fluid.
this movement is known as convection current


Convection is heat transfer through a fluid with the hotter molecules rising and the cooler ones sinking.

Process of Convection
When a liquid is heated, it expands, becomes less dense and floats upwards. Cold and denser liquid moves down to replace the rising liquid masses. This cold liquid, in turn, gets heated up. This circulation of liquid is known as convection current. The convection current brings thermal energy to other parts of the liquid.
cooler water is more dense and falls hotter water is less dense and rises



Fluid movement
Cooler, more d____, ense fluids sink through w_____, armer less dense fluids. In effect, warmer liquids and gases r___ ise up. Cooler liquids and gases s___. ink

Why is it windy at the seaside?

Convection in a Gas

Cold air sinks

Where is the freezer compartment put in a fridge?

Freezer compartment It is warmer at the bottom, so this warmer air rises and a convection current is set up.

It is put at the top, because cool air sinks, so it cools the food on the way down.

Question Time!
Question: When the water at the top of the test tube is boiling, has the ice melted? Explain.
Answer: The ice does not melt completely even though the water at the surface is already boiling.

test tube

bunsen flame

This is because water is a bad conductor of heat. Since hot water rises, most of the glass marble heat energy from the flame do not get transferred to the ice due to convection nor conduction. ice

Hence the bottom of the test tube stays cool and the region above the flame becomes warm.

Uses of convection
Electric kettle
heating element is placed at the bottom the heating element heats up the water at the bottom This water expands, becomes less dense and rises Cooler water from other regions replaces the rising hot water The cooler water is heated by the heater and the process repeats. A convection current is set up to aid in the transfer of thermal energy in the water.


Uses of convection
Hot Water System
based on convection principle Consists of a boiler, water storage tank and cold tank interconnected by pipes Convection currents drive hot water from the top of boiler into hot water storage tank. Cold water from storage tank is drawn down to the boiler where it in turn becomes heated.

Practice 2
Explain why the air-conditioner is placed near the ceiling.
the air-conditioner will cool the air around it. the cooler air will contract, become more dense and sinks. the warmer air from other regions will replace the sinking cool air. the warmer air is cooled by the air-conditioner and the process repeats a convection current is set up that helps to cool the whole room


Thinking Question:
Life on Earth depends on the energy we receive from the Sun. Can the thermal energy reach Earth via conduction or convection?


The third method of heat transfer

How does heat energy get from the Sun to the Earth?

There are no particles between the Sun and the Earth so it CANNOT travel by conduction or by convection.


Radiation is heat transfer through space.

The earth is heated by radiation from the sun.

Radiation is the transfer of thermal energy without the use of any medium
can transfer across vacuum

The thermal energy is transmitted via the emission of infrared radiation from the surface of the body.
all objects radiate some radiant heat

Radiation vs Conduction vs Convection

What is the main heat transfer mechanism that causes the nichrome wire to heat up?
Nichrome wire

Nichrome wire

Nichrome wire

By conduction

By convection

By radiation


Factors affecting radiation

Properties that increases absorption of radiation:
Black surface Dull/rough surface large surface area high surface temperature
Ah boy, next time wear white colour so you will not feel so hot!

Properties that reduces absorption of radiation

White/shiny surface
Reflect more radiation

smooth surface small surface temperature low surface temperature

Good absorbers are also good emitters


Experiment to show factors affecting radiation


Uses of radiation
To keep cool:
white houses silvered surfaces
(e.g. car sun shades)

To increase absorption
black, rough surface of stoves and pans black painted heat exchanger pipes

Vacuum Flask
Vacuum Flask

Reduces transfer of thermal energy by conduction, convection and radiation Consists of a double-walled glass container with a vacuum in between Silvered walls on vacuum side Container supported by foam plastic, a poor conductor

Vacuum Flask
No heat can enter or leave flask by conduction or convection across the vacuum Inner silvered surface reflects radiation from hot fluids back into flask Outer silvered surface reflects radiation in external surroundings away from flask Foam plastic support and plastic cap minimises heat transmitted by conduction through thin glass walls Plastic cap stops convection and evaporation


What do you use if you want to keep your drink cool or warm?

Heat flow Conduction




Liquid Conductor


Practice 3


Radiation travels in straight lines True/False

Radiation can travel through a vacuum

True/False Radiation requires particles to travel True/False Radiation travels at the speed of light


Emission experiment
Four containers were filled with warm water. Which container would have the warmest water after ten minutes?
Dull metal Shiny black

Shiny metal

Dull black

shiny metal container would be the warmest after ten The __________ minutes because its shiny surface reflects heat radiation _______ back dull black container into the container so less is lost. The ________ emitting heat would be the coolest because it is the best at _______ radiation.

Absorption experiment
Four containers were placed equidistant from a heater. Which container would have the warmest water after ten minutes?
Dull metal Shiny black

Shiny metal

Dull black

dull black container would be the warmest after ten The __________ radiation the best. minutes because its surface absorbs heat _______ shiny metal container would be the coolest because it is The _________ the poorest at __________ absorbing heat radiation.

Convection questions
Why does hot air rise and cold air sink? Cool air is more dense than warm air, so the cool air falls through the warm air. Why are boilers placed beneath hot water tanks in peoples homes? Hot water rises. So when the boiler heats the water, and the hot water rises, the water tank is filled with hot water.

Radiation questions
Why are houses painted white in hot countries? White reflects heat radiation and keeps the house cooler.

Why are shiny foil blankets wrapped around marathon runners at the end of a race?
The shiny metal reflects the heat radiation from the runner back in, this stops the runner getting cold.

1. Which of the following is not a method of heat transfer?

A. B. C. D. Radiation Insulation Conduction Convection

2. In which of the following are the particles closest together?

A. B. C. D. Solid Liquid Gas Fluid

3. How does heat energy reach the Earth from the Sun?
A. B. C. D. Radiation Conduction Convection Insulation

4. Which is the best surface for reflecting heat radiation?

A. B. C. D. Shiny white Dull white Shiny black Dull black

5. Which is the best surface for absorbing heat radiation?

A. B. C. D. Shiny white Dull white Shiny black Dull black