The thermal conductivity of a material is equivalent to the quantity of heat that passes in unit time through unit area of a plate, when its opposite faces are subject to unit temperature gradient (e.g. one degree temperature difference across a thickness of one unit).
Thermal conductivity = Heat flow rate ÷ (Area × Temperature gradient)
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2 Examples 3 Related terms 4 See Also |
In the SI system of units, thermal conductivity is measured in watts per meter-kelvin, (W·m^{-1}·K^{-1}) where a
Thermal conductivity should not be confused with thermal conductance, which is explained below.In general thermal conductivity tracks electrical conductivity, metals being good thermal conductors. There are exceptions, the most outstanding is that of diamond which has a high thermal conductivity, between 1000 and 2600 W·m^{-1}·K^{-1}, while the electrical conductivity is low.
Thermal conductivity of other common materials:
Since diamond has such a high thermal conductivity, natural blue diamond much higher still, one may test gems to determine if they are genuine diamonds using a thermal conductance tester, one of the instruments of gemology. Diamonds of any size are notably cool to the touch because of their high thermal conductivity, perhaps the origin of the term "ice."
For general scientific use [2]class="external">[1, thermal conductance is the quantity of heat that passes in unit time through a plate of particular area and thickness when its opposite faces differ in temperature by one degree. For a plate of thermal conductivity λ, area A and thickness T this is λA/T, measured in W·K^{-1}. This matches the relationship between electrical conductivity (A·m^{-1}·V^{-1}) and electrical conductance (A·V^{-1}).
There is also a measure known as heat transfer coefficient: the quantity of heat that passes in unit time through unit area of a plate of particular thickness when its opposite faces differ in temperature by one degree. The reciprocal is thermal insulance. In summary:
When dealing with buildings ([1], thermophysics FAQ 5)[1], thermal resistance or R value means what is described above as thermal insulance, and thermal conductance means the reciprocal. For materials in series, these thermal resistances (unlike conductances) can simply be added to give a thermal resistance for the whole.
A third term, thermal transmittance, incoporates the thermal conductance of a structure along with heat transfer due to convection and radiation. It is measured in the same units as thermal conductance and is sometimes known as the composite thermal conductance. The term U value is another synonym.
The term K value is a synonym for thermal conductivity.
In summary, for a plate of thermal conductivity λ, area A and thickness T: