Thermal Conductivity

In physics, thermal conductivity, k, is the property of a material that indicates its ability to conduct heat. It is used primarily in Fourier's Law for heat conduction.

First, we define heat conduction by the formula:       

H=\frac{\Delta Q}{\Delta t}=k\times A\times\frac{\Delta T}{x}


where \frac{\Delta Q}{\Delta t}is the rate of heat flow, k is the thermal conductivity, A is the total surface area of conducting surface, ΔT is temperature difference and x is the thickness of conducting surface separating the 2 temperatures.

Thus, rearranging the equation gives thermal conductivity,

k=\frac{\Delta Q}{\Delta t}\times\frac{1}{A}\times\frac{x}{\Delta T}

        (Note: \frac{\Delta T}{x} is the temperature gradient)

In other words, it is defined as the quantity of heat, ΔQ, transmitted during time Δt through a thickness x, in a direction normal to a surface of area A, due to a temperature difference ΔT, under steady state conditions and when the heat transfer is dependent only on the temperature gradient.

Alternately, it can be thought of as a flux of heat (energy per unit area per unit time) divided by a temperature gradient (temperature difference per unit length)

k=\frac{\Delta Q}{A\times{} \Delta t}\times\frac{x}{\Delta T}

Typical units are SI: W/(m·K) and English units: Btu·ft/(h·ft²·°F). To convert between the two, use the relation 1 Btu·ft/(h·ft²·°F) = 1.730735 W/(m·K). [Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook, 7th Edition, Table 1-4]

Epic uses a C-Therm test unit for measuring thermal conductivity.

Back to Glossary