Heat-Transfer Mechanisms

Heat-Transfer Mechanisms

Basic Concepts of Heat Transfer

  • Heat transfer is the movement of thermal energy from one thing to another thing of different temperature.
  • The heat will always transfer from a high-temperature body to a low-temperature body.
  • There are three primary methods of heat transfer: convection, conduction, and radiation.


  • Conduction is the process by which heat energy is transferred through direct contact.
  • In a solid, heat can be conducted from one end to the other without the need for the material itself to move.
  • Examples of conductors are metals, especially copper and aluminium.
  • Objects that do not conduct heat well are called insulators.


  • Convection is the heat transfer due to the bulk movement of molecules within fluids such as gases and liquids.
  • Convection is often seen in everyday occurrences like heated air rising, or water boiling in a pan.
  • Convection plays a large role in heating and cooling in cryogenics.


  • Radiation is the energy that is radiated or transmitted in the form of rays or waves or particles.
  • Unlike convection and conduction, radiation can occur in a vacuum, as it does not require a physical medium.
  • An example of radiation is the heat from the sun which reaches Earth through the vacuum of space.

Heat-Transfer Mechanisms in Cryogenics and Vacuum Technology

  • In cryogenics, controlling the mechanisms of heat transfer is vital. Cryocoolers, for example, remove heat from a system using a combination of conduction and radiation mechanisms.
  • In vacuum technology, heat transfer through radiation becomes increasingly dominant as the vacuum becomes more ideal and free of gas.

Heat Conduction in Solids

  • Heat conduction in solids, such as the walls of a vacuum chamber, is described by Fourier’s law.
  • Fourier’s equation, q = -kAdT/dx, demonstrates that the heat transfer rate (q) is proportional to the cross-sectional area (A) and the temperature gradient (dT/dx), with k being the thermal conductivity.

Heat Convection in Fluids

  • Heat convection can be affected by the movement of the fluid, as well as its density and heat capacity.
  • The rate of heat convection in a fluid is described by Newton’s law of cooling, q = hA(T_surface - T_fluid), where h is the convective heat transfer coefficient, A is the area of the surface, and T_surface and T_fluid are the absolute temperatures of the surface and fluid respectively.