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Conduction is the transfer of heat from molecule to molecule through a substance. If a steel bar is temporarily heated at one end, its molecules become agitated and move faster than neighboring molecules. When fast-moving molecules collide with slower molecules, energy is transferred from faster to slower molecules. The chain reaction moves along the bar until its temperature is uniform. While conduction does take place in gases and liquids, its effects are most pronounced in solids. The closer the molecules are packed, the easier conduction is. Heat transfer via conduction increases in materials with a greater heat conductivity and larger temperature gradients.

Question: Why do animals living in freezing climates often burrow into the snow to sleep?

Answer: In addition to furs and thick skin, air spaces in the snow help animals protect themselves in such harsh weather. Snow, a poor conductor, slows the loss of body heat. In freezing weather, an igloo would provide a warmer shelter than would a wooden shack because the snow and ice of the igloo are better insulators than wood.

Question: How do gloves protect our hands in the cold?

Answer: The temperature difference between hands (37°C) and outdoor air (say 0°C) is the same whether we wear gloves or not. However, with gloves heat follows a path of greater resistance, and the rate of heat loss from our hands reduces.


(1) Toossi Reza, "Energy and the Environment:Sources, technologies, and impacts", Verve Publishers, 2005

Further Reading

El-Sayed, Y., The Thermodynamics of Energy Conversions, Elsevier Direct Science, 2003.

Cengel, Y. A., Heat Transfer: A Practical Approach, McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1998.

Rifkin, J., Entropy, The Viking Press, 1980.

El-Wakil, M/ M., Power Plant Technology, McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1984.

Energy and Buildings, Science Direct Elsevier Publishing Company. An international journal publishing articles about energy use in buildings and indoor environment quality.

Energy Conversion and Management, Science Direct Elsevier Publishing Company. This journal focuses on energy efficiency and management; heat pipes; space and terrestrial power systems; hydrogen production and storage; renewable energy; nuclear power; fuel cells and advanced batteries.

Energy and Buildings, Science Direct Elsevier Publishing Company, An international journal dedicated to investigations of energy use and efficiency in buildings.

External Links

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How Stuff Works (

California Energy Commission Consumer Energy Center (