Fundamental Modes of Heat Transfer

Generally I like to write about cool stuff. Whether it is a new product like our TurboBlast Safety Air Gun, an application that really helped cool down a process for a customer, or even something cool I have done like a GORUCK event or training. Well, today is not one of those days, today we are going to talk about the opposite of cool … HEAT and more importantly the methods it is transferred.

1 – Energy Transfer – Heat

The process of how heat is generated all starts with a conversion of energy. Whether it is friction, or converting energy to light, or even converting energy to a different voltage through something like a transformer. No matter how it is generated, heat will begin to transfer. On the molecular level, atoms are storing the energy which will cause electrons to enter into an excited state and rapidly switch between shells. When the electron returns back to a lower shell (closer to the nucleus) energy is released; the energy released is then absorbed by atoms at a lower energy state and will continue until the thermal energy is equal between the two objects. Heat has four fundamental modes of transferring energy from surface to surface and they are as follows:

Conduction can also be referred to as diffusion and is the transfer of energy between two objects that have made physical contact. When the two objects come into contact with each other thermal energy will flow from the object with the higher temp to the object with the lower temp. A good example of this is placing ice in a glass of water. The temperature is much lower than the room temperature therefore the thermal energy will flow from the water to the ice.

Radiation is the transfer of thermal energy through empty space and does require a material between the two objects. Going back to the how thermal energy is released from atoms; when the electron returns to a lower energy shell the energy is released in the form of light ranging from infrared light to UV light. Energy in the form of light can then be absorbed by an object in the form of heat. Everyone experiences radiation transfer every day when you walk outside; the light from the sun’s radiation is what keeps this planet habitable.

Convection is the transfer of thermal energy between an object and a fluid in motion. The faster the fluid moves the faster heat is transferred. This relies on the specific heat property of a molecule in order to determine the rate at which heat will be transferred. The low the specific heat of a molecule the faster and more volume of the fluid will need to move in order to get full affect of convection. Convection is used in modern ovens in order to get a more even heat through out the food while cooking.

Advection is the physical transport of a fluid from point A to point B, which includes all internal thermal energy stored inside. Advection can be seen as one of the simpler ways of heat transfer.

No matter how the heat is transferred to an object, if it needs to be cooled there is a good chance that one of our Application Engineers has approached a similar issue and can help. To discuss, contact us and we will walk through the best method to eliminate the heat you need to.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer

1 – “Energy Transfer – Heat” by Siyavula Education is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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