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2.0 AIM
To determine the thermal conductivity of a copper rod by measuring the heat flux through
the rod and the thermal gradient along the rod in a steady state situation.

- Searle’s thermal conductivity apparatus (dimension shown in fig 1)
- 12V power supply
- 1 ammeter
- 1 voltmeter
- 4 thermometers
- Constant head device
- Vernier calipers.

The procedure can be seen on page 34 of the PH102 lab manual.
When two regions of a material (e.g. the ends) are kept at different temperatures, there is a
continuous distribution of temperatures in between. The transfer of energy arising from the
temperature difference between adjacent parts of the material is called conduction. In a steady
state conduction, the temperature along the sample is constant with time and the heat that
enters one end of the sample is conducted along the sample to be extracted at 34 other end.

“Heat conduction is not only determined by the material, but also by its shape, and by the
temperature between the two ends…In order to measure the thermal conductivity of a material
of a certain material it is important to measure the heat input, its length, diameter and the
temperature difference.” www.tutorvista.com/.../thermal-conductivity.php
Thus the heat flux is given by
𝑑𝑞 𝑑𝑇
(1) = −𝐾𝐴
𝑑𝑡 𝑑𝑥

where K is the thermal conductivity and x is the distance along the sample.
Since for a steady state, dq/dt is constant and also A and K are constants, thus, the temperature
gradient dT/dx is also constant for all x. Therefore T decreases linearly along the rod. So, the
heat transferred in time t is given by (use Fig. 1 as reference)
𝑞 𝑇 −𝑇
(2) = −𝐾𝐴 1 2
𝑡 𝑥

The thermal conductivity K of a substance increases slightly with increasing temperature, but
can be considered constant in this experiment since the temperature difference is not too great
between the ends of the sample. In general, metals are better heat conductors than non-metals
because of the presence of the conduction electrons.
In this experiment the thermal conductivity of a copper rod is measured by using equation (2).
The rod is inside an insulated box so that heat only flows down the rod from the heat source to
the heat sink. The amount of heat q flowing down the rod in time t is found by measuring the
mass of water, m, flowing through the heat sink and the temperature change of the water:
𝑑𝑞 𝑚
(3) = (𝑇3 − 𝑇4 )
𝑑𝑡 𝑡

where c is the specific heat capacity of water. If the cross-sectional area A of the rod is known
and x, T1, T2, T3, T4 and t are measured, then K can be calculated by applying equations (2) and
a). Distance between T1 and T2 (x) = ±
b.) Diameter of the Rod (d) = ±

6.1 Table 1

Time (min) T1 T2 T3 T4
0 0 0 0
± min ± C ± C ± C ± C
6.2 Graph
i) Mass flow rate of water (m/t) calculation with errors
ii) Steady state Voltage of the Apparatus (V) = ±
iii) Steady state Current of the Apparatus (I) = ±
iv) Calculation of the heat flux (q/t) =
v) Calculation of thermal conductivity K =