Heat transfer is the study of how heat is transmitted from place to place. We are all familiar with the fact heat does move: a metal bar that is heated at one end will become warm at the opposite end as the heat flows from one end to the other. This is an example of conduction heat transfer which is the study of how heat moves through stationary objects.
Heat can also be carried along in a fluid. Before air conditioning people used to cool themselves by placing a fan behind an ice cube and blowing cold air on themselves. In this case the air, having been cooled by the ice, carries heat away from our skins as it moves by us. The faster the air moves the more heat will be carried away - this effect is responsible for the "wind chill factor" as well. If the wind is blowing we get colder than if it is not. This type of heat transfer is called convection, and since it relies on fluid flow it is closely related to fluid dynamics.
Finally heat can be radiated by thermal radiation. Standing in sunlight one can feel the sun's warmth even though the sun is millions of miles away and separated from us by a vacuum. There is no air or water in space to carry the heat to the earth, but the sun's thermal radiation reaches us nonetheless. This is an example of radiative heat transfer.
Heat transfer has a huge number of applications. Engines must be cooled in order to function properly, houses and buildings must be kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer, air and ocean currents are strongly affected by heat, mammals must maintain constant temperature to survive, heat is required to melt metals and plastics for manufacturing, power generators usually operate by heating water to generate steam etc ...
In addition to these applications it happens that the equations that govern heat transfer are the same as those that govern mass transfer. These two fields are often studied together under the general heading of transport phenomena. Problems involving the transport of chemical species and other particles include the study of pollutant movement through the ground and water and the cleaning up of those pollutants, design of smokestack scrubbers, design of chemical reactors and transport of gases and nutrients in the ocean and in animals, humans and fish.
Faculty with expertise in Heat Transfer
Research projects in Heat Transfer at UMass Dartmouth
Course offerings in Heat Transfer
- Heat transfer