Equally as interesting as the effects of heat transfer on a system are the methods by which this occurs. Whenever there is a temperature difference, heat transfer occurs. Heat transfer may occur rapidly, such as through a cooking pan, or slowly, such as through the walls of a picnic ice chest. We can control rates of heat transfer by choosing materials (such as thick wool clothing for the winter), controlling air movement (such as the use of weather stripping around doors), or by choice of color (such as a white roof to reflect summer sunlight). So many processes involve heat transfer, so that it is hard to imagine a situation where no heat transfer occurs. Yet every process involving heat transfer takes place by only three methods:
- Conduction is heat transfer through stationary matter by physical contact. (The matter is stationary on a macroscopic scale—we know there is thermal motion of the atoms and molecules at any temperature above absolute zero.) Heat transferred between the electric burner of a stove and the bottom of a pan is transferred by conduction.
- Convection is the heat transfer by the macroscopic movement of a fluid. This type of transfer takes place in a forced-air furnace and in weather systems, for example.
- Heat transfer by radiation occurs when microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light, or another form of electromagnetic radiation is emitted or absorbed. An obvious example is the warming of the Earth by the Sun. A less obvious example is thermal radiation from the human body.
We examine these methods in some detail in the three following modules. Each method has unique and interesting characteristics, but all three do have one thing in common: they transfer heat solely because of a temperature difference Figure 14.12.
Check Your Understanding
Name an example from daily life (different from the text) for each mechanism of heat transfer.
Conduction: Heat transfers into your hands as you hold a hot cup of coffee.
Convection: Heat transfers as the barista “steams” cold milk to make hot cocoa.
Radiation: Reheating a cold cup of coffee in a microwave oven.