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Wonders of Physics


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Processes for Transfer of Thermal Energy

Three processes of thermal transfer: conduction, convection and radiation.

Conduction vs Convection:

Similarity:

  • both requires a medium for thermal transfer to take place.

Differences:

  • convection cannot take place in solid but conduction can.
  • conduction is due to vibration and collision of molecules while convection is due to fluid density changes.

Radiation vs Conduction & Convection

  • Radiation can take place in vacuum but both conduction and convection require a medium.

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N2007P1Q17 – Thermal Properties

Four bars, all exactly the same size, are each placed with one end in boiling water.The times taken for the temperature of the other end to increase by 2 oC are measured.

Material of bar Time for 2oC rise / s
Aluminium 10
Copper 5
Cork 800
Styrofoam 1200

To make a large metal tank with the least heat loss, which materials should be used for the tank and its insulation?

Tank Insulation
A Aluminium Cork
B Aluminium Styrofoam
C Copper Cork
D Copper Styrofoam

Solutions: Option B

This question can be a bit tricky. It depends on which approach you view the question. Simply using conduction will be a much easier way to get the answer. The hint to use conduction is from the first paragraph. Time taken for temp of the other end to increase by 2 oC is about conduction.

To build such a tank, metal (aluminium or copper) has to be used and insulation on the external wall (cork or styrofoam).

To contain boiling water with least heat loss, both tank and insulation have to be good insulator (poor conductor) to reduce heat lost to surrounding. Hence tank should be aluminium and insulation should be styrofoam (option B)

On the other hand, if you approach the question in term of heat capacity, it will be a bit tedious and you do not have the values.Firstly, if aluminium takes a longer time to rise by 2 oC, it has a higher specific heat capacity. But you cannot merely look at specific heat capacity. You have to look at heat capacity as the mass of the container is important.

Copper: Density = 8940 kg/m3 and specific heat capacity = 400 J/kg.K

Aluminium: Density = 2700 kg/m3 specific heat capacity = 900J/kg.K

Assumptions: Volume of copper and aluminium are the same (same shape of container) say 0.02 m3, Initial temperature of metal is 30oC

Considering the amount of thermal energy gained from water as metal temperature reaches 80oC

Heat lost by water = heat gain by metal

Copper

Mass of copper = 8940 x 0.02 = 178.8 kg

Heat lost be water = heat gained by copper = mcθ = 178.8 x 400 x (80-30) = 3576000 J

Aluminium

Mass of Aluminium = 2700 x 0.02 = 54 kg

Heat lost be water = heat gained by aluminium = mcθ = 54 x 900 x (80-30) = 2430000J

From the calculation, it is obvious that the aluminium gains lesser thermal energy from the water, hence water will remain warmer compared to when using copper. Hence using this approach, it is still Option B. But important to know that you have to consider heat capacity [C], not specific heat capacity (c). [ C = mc]