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A relationship between emissivity and thermal conductivity of metals

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1966 Br. J. Appl. Phys. 17 573


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BRIT. J. APPL. PHYS., 1966, VOL. 17


A relationshi between emissivity sand thermal

conductivity of metals
Abstract. A semi-theoretical equation relating the emissivity in a direction nornial
to the surface of polished metals, En, and their thermal conductivity k is derived:
En = 1.0 x 10-4 Tk-W
where T i s in 'K and k in w cm-l degrc-l. Literature data are in agreement with this

Two independent equations are available in the literature, one relating the normal emis-
sivity of smooth electrical conductors to their electrical resistivity, and the other relating
the electricai and thermal conductivities of metals. It is possible to combine these two
equations to arrive at a relation between the normal emissivity and thermal conductivity of
Jakob (1956) reported the following equation for the normal emissivity of polished metals
at long wavelengths :
En =
where En is norma! emissivity, T is absolute temperature in O K , and i'e, 273 is electrical
resistivity in Q cm at 2 7 3 " ~ .
The seccnd equation is the well-known Wiedemann-Franz-Lorenz equation,

where k is thermal conductivity in w cm-I degK-l, ke = l / P e is electrical conductivity at

temperature T ( Qcm)-1, L is the Lorenz number, which is a constant for pure metals and
theoretically equal t o 22.3 x , is usually higher.
v2 degrc-' at 2 7 3 " ~but
574 Letters to the Editor
Since the resistivity of pure metals is roughly directly proportional to the absolute tempera-
ture, equations (1) and (2) can be combined to give
En = 0.865 x lo-' T k-'i2. (3)
Experimental values of IC and E n for several polished metals at temperatures ranging
between room temperature and 6OO0c, and involving the work of several experimenters,
were collected from the literature (American Institute of Physics 1957, Grober and Erk
1961, McAdams 1954) and compared with En as calculated by equation (3). The figure
shows that equation (3) s!ightly underestimates En, probably due to the low theoretical
value of the Lorenz number used. A better representation of the data is given by
En = 1.0 x Tk-li2. (4)
A more useful engineering property, the total hemispherical emissivity Eh can then be
calculated using equation (4) and an appropriate relationship between Eh and En. Based on
the work of Davisson and Weeks (1924), the following approximation is suggested by the
author for polished metallic surfaces (En < 0.3)

The very fact that a simple relationship exists between a radiative (surface) property of
metals and their thermal conductivity is interesting and should provoke some questions
regarding the relation between thermal radiation and conduction in metals.
Department of Chemical Engineering, S. AT ALL AH^
Tufts University, 29th December 1965
Medford, Massachusetts, U.S.A. in recised form 11th February 1966

American Institute of Physics, 1957, American Instilute of Physics Plbndbook, edited by D. E.
Gray (New York: McGraw-Hill), pp. 4.78, 6.68.
DAMSSON, C., and WEEKS, J. R., 1924, J. Opt. Soc. Amer., 8, 581-606.
GROBER, H., and EXK,S . , 1961, Fundamentals of Heat Transfer, revised by U. Grigull (New York:
McGraw-Hill), pp. 448-9.
JAKOB,M., 1956, Heat Transfer, Vol. I (New York: John Wiley), pp. 44-6.
MCADAMS, W. H., 1954, Heat Tmnsmission (New York: McGraw-Hili), pp. 445-6,472.

i Present address: Fire Research Station, Boreham Wood, Herts.