Thermal conductivity

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In physics, thermal conductivity, k, is the property of a material reflecting its ability to conduct heat. It appears primarily in Fourier's Law for heat conduction. Thermal conductivity is measured in watts per kelvin-metre (W·K−1·m−1, i.e. W/(K·m). Multiplied by a temperature difference (in kelvins, K) and an area (in square metres, m2), and divided by a thickness (in metres, m), the thermal conductivity predicts the rate of energy loss (in watts, W) through a piece of material. In the window building industry "thermal conductivity" is expressed as the U-Factor measures the rate of heat transfer and tells you how well the window insulates. U-factor values generally range from 0.15 to 1.25 and are measured in Btu per hour - square foot - degree Fahrenheit (ie. Btu/h·ft²·°F). The lower the U-factor, the better the window insulates.

The reciprocal of thermal conductivity is thermal resistivity.



There are a number of ways to measure thermal conductivity. Each of these is suitable for a limited range of materials, depending on the thermal properties and the medium temperature. There is a distinction between steady-state and transient techniques.

In general, steady-state techniques are useful when the temperature of the material does not change with time. This makes the signal analysis straightforward (steady state implies constant signals). The disadvantage is that a well-engineered experimental setup is usually needed. The Divided Bar (various types) is the most common device used for consolidated rock samples.

The transient techniques perform a measurement during the process of heating up. Their advantage is quicker measurements. Transient methods are usually carried out by needle probes.


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