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Chapter: 11th Physics : Heat and Thermodynamics

Heat transfer

There are three modes of heat transfer: Conduction, Convection and Radiation.

Heat transfer


As we have seen already heat is a energy in transit which is transferred from one body to another body due to temperature difference. There are three modes of heat transfer: Conduction, Convection and Radiation.



Conduction is the process of direct transfer of heat through matter due to temperature difference. When two objects are in direct contact with one another, heat will be transferred from the hotter object to the colder one. The objects which allow heat to travel easily through them are called conductors.


Thermal conductivity

Thermal conductivity is the ability to conduct heat.

The quantity of heat transferred through a unit length of a material in a direction normal to unit surface area due to a unit temperature difference under steady state conditions is known as thermal conductivity of a material.

In steady state, the rate of flow of heat Q is proportional to the temperature difference ΔT and the area of cross section A and is inversely proportional to the length L. So the rate of flow of heat is written as

Where, K is known as the coefficient of thermal conductivity.

(Not to be confused with Kelvin represented by upper case K)

The SI unit of thermal conductivity is J s-1 m-1 K-1 or W m-1 K-1.

Thermal conductivity depends on the nature of the material. For example silver and aluminum have high thermal conductivities. So they are used to make cooking vessels.



Convection is the process in which heat transfer is by actual movement of molecules in fluids such as liquids and gases. In convection, molecules move freely from one place to another. It happens naturally or forcefully.

Boiling water in a cooking pot is an example of convection. Water at the bottom of the pot receives more heat. Due to heating, the water expands and the density of water decreases at the bottom. Due to this decrease in density, molecules rise to the top. At the same time the molecules at the top receive less heat and become denser and come to the bottom of the pot. This process goes on continuously. The back and forth movement of molecules is called convection current.

To keep the room warm, we use room heater. The air molecules near the heater will heat up and expand. As they expand, the density of air molecules will decrease and rise up while the higher density cold air will come down. This circulation of air molecules is called convection current.



When we keep our hands near the hot stove we feel the heat even though our hands are not touching the hot stove. Here heat transferred from the hot stove to our hands is in the form of radiation. We receive energy from the sun in the form of radiations. These radiations travel through vacuum and reach the Earth. It is the peculiar character of radiation which requires no medium to transfer energy from one object to another. The conduction or convection requires medium to transfer the heat.

Radiation is a form of energy transfer from one body to another by electromagnetic waves.


1. Solar energy from the Sun.

2. Radiation from room heater.

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11th Physics : Heat and Thermodynamics : Heat transfer |

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