Thermal conduction in solids
McCarthy, Kathryn A. Formerly, Department of Physics, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts.
Last reviewed:July 2018
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- Insulating solids
- Glass and polycrystalline materials
- Metals, alloys, and semiconductors
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The transfer of energy as heat through solid matter. Thermal conduction in a solid is generally measured by stating the thermal conductivity K, which is the ratio of the steady-state heat flow (heat transfer per unit area per unit time) along a long rod to the temperature gradient along the rod. Thermal conductivity varies widely among different types of solids, and depends markedly on temperature and on the purity and physical state of the solids, particularly at low temperatures. Materials, like metals, that are effective at transferring heat are called thermal conductors, whereas materials that ineffectively conduct heat are called thermal insulators (Fig. 1). See also: Heat transfer; Temperature
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