Thermal conductivity is the term for a metal’s ability to conduct heat. This is an important quality to understand as it has serious implications for a metal’s industrial use, especially when very high temperatures are a concern, like in an aircraft engine.
The level of thermal conductivity stays relatively constant for pure metals; but in metal alloys, it will go up as temperatures increase.
Metals That Conduct Heat Well
Copper and aluminum are two metals that conduct heat at the highest possible level, while steel and bronze conduct heat at the lowest. It’s here that we can see how important thermal conductivity can be in certain practical and industrial applications. Since copper conducts heat well, it is excellent for use on the bottom of a kitchen pan. On the other hand, the very low thermal conductivity of steel makes it an ideal metal for use in aircraft engines.
Here are a few examples of industrial uses of metals with high thermal conductivity in heat exchanging applications, where heat is transferred with the purpose of either heating up or cooling down a situation.
Heat exchangers are used in facilities like nuclear power plants and desalination plants, where copper alloys are used to create the tubing for a heat exchanger. Copper is highly resistant to corrosion, so this type of alloy is great for places where exposure to saltwater is an issue.
Gas Water Heaters
Gas water heaters, found in suburban homes and other commercial areas, are a classic example of a heat exchange. Water that is heated by gas can be used in a home. This is another type of heat exchange that is ideally matched with copper, due to its high thermal conductivity. Copper is also easy to work with in fabrication, which makes it a popular choice for this application.
Copper bottom pans are a popular choice in high-end cookware, as the conductivity naturally allows food to heat quickly. A lower-cost cookware option is aluminum, which does heat food, but at a slower rate.
Thermal conductivity is a very important aspect of metals and metal alloys, and knowing how each type of metal conducts heat can be crucial information in many practical applications, from cookware to airplanes and power plants. For a free quote on our high-quality metals and metal alloys, contact us.