**heat conduction equation**is a partial differential equation that describes

**heat**distribution (or the

**temperature field**) in a given body over time. Detailed knowledge of the temperature field is very important in thermal conduction through materials. Once this temperature distribution is known, the

**conduction heat flux**at any point in the material or on its surface may be computed from Fourier’s law.

**General Form**

Using these two equations, we can derive the general heat conduction equation:

This equation is also known as the **Fourier-Biot equation** and provides the basic tool for heat conduction analysis.

In previous sections, we have dealt with one-dimensional steady-state heat transfer, which can be characterized by Fourier’s law of heat conduction. But its applicability is very limited. This law assumes steady-state heat transfer through a planar body (note that Fourier’s law can also be derived for cylindrical and spherical coordinates) **without heat sources**. The rate equation is in this heat transfer mode, where the temperature gradient is known.

But a major problem in most conduction analyses is determining the **temperature field** in a medium resulting from conditions imposed on its boundaries. In engineering, we have to solve heat transfer problems involving different geometries and different conditions, such as a cylindrical nuclear fuel element, which involves an internal heat source or the wall of a spherical containment. These problems are more complex than the planar analyses in previous sections. Therefore these problems will be the subject of this section, in which the **heat conduction equation** will be introduced and solved.

## General Heat Conduction Equation

The **heat conduction equation** is a partial differential equation that describes **heat** distribution (or the** temperature field**) in a given body over time. Detailed knowledge of the temperature field is very important in thermal conduction through materials. Once this temperature distribution is known, the **conduction heat flux** at any point in the material or on its surface may be computed from Fourier’s law.

The heat equation is **derived** from **Fourier’s law** and **conservation of energy**. Fourier’s law states that the time **rate of heat transfer** through a material is **proportional to** the negative **gradient in the temperature** and the area at right angles to that gradient through which the heat flows.

A change in internal energy per unit volume in the material, ΔQ, is proportional to the change in temperature, Δu. That is:

**∆Q = ρ.c**_{p}**.∆T**

**General Form**

Using these two equations, we can derive the general heat conduction equation:

This equation is also known as the **Fourier-Biot equation** and provides the basic tool for heat conduction analysis. From its solution, we can obtain the temperature field as a function of time.

In words, the **heat conduction equation** states that:

*At any point in the medium, the net rate of energy transfer by conduction into a unit volume plus the volumetric rate of thermal energy generation must equal the rate of change of thermal energy stored within the volume.*

**Constant Thermal Conductivity**

This equation can be further reduced assuming the thermal conductivity to be constant and introducing the thermal diffusivity, α = k/ρc_{p}:

Additional simplifications of the general form of the heat equation are often possible. For example, under steady-state conditions, there can be no change in the amount of energy storage (∂T/∂t = 0).

**One-dimensional Heat Equation**

One of the most powerful assumptions is the special case of one-dimensional heat transfer in the x-direction. In this case, the derivatives for y and z drop out, and the equations above reduce to (Cartesian coordinates):

## Heat Conduction in Cylindrical and Spherical Coordinates

There are plenty of problems in engineering that cannot be solved in cartesian coordinates. **Cylindrical** and **spherical systems** are very common in thermal and power engineering, and the heat equation may also be expressed in cylindrical and spherical coordinates. The **general heat conduction** equation in **cylindrical coordinates** can be obtained from an energy balance on a volume element in cylindrical coordinates and using the **Laplace operator, Δ, in the cylindrical and spherical form**.

**Cylindrical coordinates:**

**Spherical coordinates:**

Obtaining analytical solutions to these differential equations requires a knowledge of the solution techniques of partial differential equations, which is beyond the scope of this text. On the other hand, there are many simplifications and assumptions that can be applied to these equations, leading to very important results. The next section limits our consideration to one-dimensional steady-state cases with constant thermal conductivity since they result in ordinary differential equations.

## Boundary and Initial Conditions

As for another **differential equation**, the solution is given by **boundary** and **initial conditions**. Several common possibilities are simply expressed in the mathematical form concerning the boundary conditions.

Because the heat equation is second order in the spatial coordinates, **two boundary conditions** must be given **for each direction** of the coordinate system, along which heat transfer is significant to describe a heat transfer problem completely. Therefore, we need to specify four boundary conditions for two-dimensional problems and six boundary conditions for three-dimensional problems.

Four kinds of boundary conditions commonly encountered in heat transfer are summarized in the following section:

## Conduction with Heat Generation

We considered thermal conduction problems **without internal heat sources **in the preceding section. For these problems, the temperature distribution in a medium was determined solely by conditions at the boundaries of the medium. But in engineering, we can often meet a problem in which internal heat sources are significant and determine the temperature distribution together with boundary conditions.

These problems are of the highest importance in **nuclear engineering** since most of the heat generated in nuclear fuel is released inside the fuel pellets. The temperature distribution is determined primarily by heat generation distribution. Note that, as can be seen from the description of the individual components of the total energy released during the fission reaction, there is a **significant amount of energy generated outside the ****nuclear fuel** (outside fuel rods). Especially the kinetic energy of prompt neutrons is largely generated** in the coolant (****moderator****)**. This phenomenon needs to be included in the nuclear calculations.

For LWR, it is generally accepted that **about 2.5%** of total energy is recovered **in the moderator**. This fraction of energy depends on the materials, their arrangement within the reactor, and thus on the reactor type.

Note that heat generation is a volumetric phenomenon. That is, it occurs throughout the body of a medium. Therefore, the heat generation rate in a medium is usually specified per unit volume and is denoted by **g _{V} [W/m^{3}]**.

The temperature distribution and accordingly the **heat flux** is primarily determined by:

**Geometry and boundary conditions.**Different geometry leads to completely different temperature fields.**Heat generation rate**. The temperature drop through the body will increase with increased heat generation.**Thermal conductivity of the medium**. Higher thermal conductivity will lead to lower temperature drop.