Steady-State 1D Conduction through a Composite Wall

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The purpose of this Demonstration is to illustrate the relationship between heat transfer and thermal conductivity of a material by applying Fourier's law, , to plot the temperature versus the position through the depth of a multilayer wall. You can vary the total heat surface heat flux conducted through the multilayer wall and the surface temperature at the far left side of the wall, . The wall has a constant cross-sectional area in square meters in the direction. You can select different materials and their thicknesses for five layers of the wall, denoting as the thermal conductivity of layer . Given this information, it is possible to determine the temperature profile through the wall, showing the interior temperature at each location.

Contributed by: Sara McCaslin and Fredericka Brown (August 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



If is the thermal conductivity of layer in W/m K and is the thickness of layer in m, .

This Demonstration can investigate the following questions:

If you use a negative value for heat flow, do you expect the temperature on the far side of the wall to be warmer or cooler than ?

Can you verify that steel or copper does not work well as an insulating material?

Do insulating materials have a steep slope on the temperature versus position plot?

What materials make good insulators?

What materials make good conductors?

By changing , flow rate , and material types/thicknesses you can find the answers to these questions.

For more information on conduction through a multilayer isothermal wall, see Engineer's Edge.


[1] D. Pitts and L. E. Sissom, Schaum's Outline of Heat Transfer, New York: McGraw Hill, 1998.

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