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Scaling Ideas in a Heat Transfer Context

I Our aim is to understand questions outside mathematics using

maths as a tool.
I Probably the most important tool for a modeller is scaling.
Scaling enables one to determine the most important features
of a problem and as such directs the mathematics and the
I’ll illustrate here in a heat flow context.
You’ll get to use scaling in many different contexts in the example
Heat Flow Physics (see Diff1 for more details)
We are concerned with temperature T changes due to a changed
thermal environment. Experiments show that the heat flux

q = −k∇T

where k is the conductivity. Note the units.

kcopper = 236 watts/(mC ◦ ), kwood = 0.166 watts/(mC ◦ )
Heat Conservation for a 1D rod with no external input:

∂T ∂2T
ρc = k 2 or Tt = κTxx
∂t ∂x
κ = k/(ρc) (m2 /sec) the diffusivity, ρ the density (km/m3 ), c the
specific heat.

ccopper = 0.38 × 103 joules/(kgC◦ ) cwood = 2 × 103 joules/(kgC◦ )

ρcopper = 8.9 × 103 kg/m3 ρwood = 0.5 × 103 kg/m3

Rod Conduction: The Simplest Problem
A rod of length L initially at T0 then (at t = 0) one end is raised
to T1 . Find T (x, t).
Question: How long to reach the equilibrium linear profile?

T0 T1
Tt = κTxx

L x
L T0
Figure : Simple Rod Heating

Particular Cases:
1. L = 20m, T0 = 10C ◦ , T1 = 150C ◦
2. L = 2cm, T0 = 20C ◦ , T1 = 25C ◦
We write
x = Lx 0 , t = τ t 0 , T = T0 + (T1 − T0 )T 0 (x 0 , t 0 )
with τ as yet unknown. This gives
h κτ i
Tt00 = 2 Tx0 0 x 0
There is one dimensionless group [·] and if we choose τ = κ we
get the dimensionless problem

0 1

Tt00 = Tx0 0 x 0

1 0 1 x'

Figure : Scaled Rod Problem

This seemingly minor rearrangement is REALLY IMPORTANT!

Scaling Results
I Need to solve the problem just once to cover all cases!
I τ= κ is the time scale to heat the rod! (large or small)
I No need to even solve the problem analytically! Just do a
single convenient experiment (numerical or in the laboratory)!
I But in this case it is easy to solve it anyhow. (mathematical
analysis is cheap, experiments are expensive).
I Linearity is not required; in fact scaling ideas are most
valuable for non-linear and complex situations.
I Scaling ideas lead to exact similarity solutions.
First separate out the steady solution and then use separation of
variables and Fourier series we get:
P∞ 2 0
T = x + 1 An e −(nπ) t sin nπx 0 where
0 0
R1 R1
An = 0 (−x 0 ) sin nπx 0 dx 0 / 0 (sin nπx 0 )2 dx 0
Note we must separate out the steady state solution first, and
then determine the transient. (Or use a finite transform.)
But just one Fourier term suffices because terms get small very
fast so
2 2 0
T 0 ≈ x 0 − e −π t sin πx 0
to within 0.1%!!!! For all practical circumstances these terms are
all that are needed!.
One should plot out results using Maple/Mtica/Sage for various t 0
We can now extract out the results for any case by returning to
the original variables but we don’t normally bother (the scaled
results are better and more understandable), but the users need to
do it, so in terms of the original variables we have:
x 2 −(π2 t/τ )
T − T0 = (T1 − T0 ) − e sin(πx/L) , with τ = .
L π κ
For example in Case 1
x 2 2
T = 10 + (150 − 10) − sin(πx/20)e −π t/τ
20 π
Our original question

The time required to reach equilibrium in scaled terms is given by

π 2 tc0 ≈ 4. In dimensional terms the time required for our rod to
reach equilibrium is tc = π42 L2 /κ.
Always reduce results to the simplest understandable form with
explicit results!
Although this is a very simple problem it does provide valuable
insight into the physics of diffusion: We would expect the diffusion
time scale for a body of size R (and any shape) to be of order
R 2 /κ.
It is important to build up insight about the various processes and
work both with the physics and the maths
Shape Effects? If the body is chunky (like a sphere or ellipsoid)
this should work. If it is ‘plate like’ one would expect the relevant
length to be the thickness of the plate.
A More General Problem
Heat (q per unit volume) is input into a body (length scale L) and
is lost to the environment (at T0 say). If the heating is sustained a
steady state will normally be reached, with the heat input rate
balanced by the heat loss rate to the environment.
I How long to reach this steady state?
I What is the eventual temperature rise (size ∆T )?

T = Ts Tt = κ∇2 T + Q T = T0

Figure : A heated body subject to Newtonian cooling

The Equations

Tt = κ∇2 T + Q, in D
where κ = k/(ρc), Q = q/(ρc)
Assume Newtonian cooling from the boundary so

−k∇T · n = γ(Ts − T0 ) around ∂D

where Ts is the surface temperature of the body, n the outward

body normal; γ is a surface heat transfer parameter which can be
Initial conditions: let us assume T (r, 0) = T0 .

We write

T − T0 = (∆T )θ, t = t0 t 0 , r = Lr0 , q = q0 q 0

Note (q0 , L) are known, and (t0 , ∆T ) are as yet to be determined.

This gives:
ht κi  
0 02 q0 t 0
θt 0 − ∇ θ= q 0 (x 0 , t 0 ),
L2 ρc∆T
with ∇θ(r0 , t 0 ) · n = − θ(r0 , t) around ∂D
and with θ(r0 , 0) = 0.
The choice of scales

ht κi  
0 02 q0 t 0
θt 0 − ∇ θ= q 0 (x 0 , t 0 ),
L2 ρc∆T
There are three dimensionless groups ([·]) with just two scales
(t0 , ∆T ) to choose. We can equate two of the [·] terms to unity
leaving one dimensionless group defining the problem. Which two?
At this stage it is important to think about the physics.
The temperature rise rate is due to the heat input and conduction
carries the heat out to the surface so the choice
L2 q0 t0 q0 L2
t0 = , ∆T = ≡ ,
κ ρc κρc
seems sensible here. A good choice is important.
Does the scaling make physical sense? If L is large would you
expect ∆T to be very large?...
The Defining Dimensionless Group of the problem

With this choice we get:

θt 0 − ∇02 θ = q 0 (x 0 , t 0 ),

with ∇0 θ(r0 , t 0 ) · n = −µθ(r0 , t 0 ),

and with θ(r0 , 0) = 0.
The important dimensionless group of the problem is µ = k
and the solution can be written in the form:
q0 L2
T − T0 = θ(t 0 , r0 , µ),

There is much information contained in this result.


I In order to experimentally determine the time to reach steady
state tst and the final temperature rise one must duplicate (a)
the geometry and (b) the dimensionless cooling parameter
µ = γLk . Explicitly we can write the

tst = fn(µ, geometry )
where the function fn is related to θ.
I Note that the required time increases in proportion to L2 .
I To determine the effect of µ on tst one could solve the
equations analytically, numerically or experimentally.
Further Comments

To complete the above problem (as an modelling exercise) one

should investigate the effect of µ on the heating time. Cases:
I µ small including µ = 0.
I µ large
I µ is moderate
One would expect good approximate analytic solutions in the small
and large µ cases. For moderate µ values numerical results are
I have set up an exercise below.
Scaling ideas enable one to identify the important parameters of
the problem, and also lead to major simplifications.
Other general insights about diffusive processes
I The heat transfer rate between bodies brought into contact is
√ very large (in fact infinite √
with heat flux is of order
1/ t ) and then very slow; like 1/ t for large t.
Implications: It is really difficult to start a fire in a fireplace
because the chimney absorbs all the generated heat initially,
so an updraft can’t be set up. But once inside surface of the
chimney is hot there will be little heat absorbed by the
chimney; the fire will grow.
I Recall that the separated solutions of the heat equation are of
the form
2 0
An e −(nπ) t sin nπx.
This means that shorter wavelength waves decay much more
rapidly than longer waves.
Implications: There is no need to input detailed temperature
data; one just needs to get the total heat content right.
A rod of cross-sectional area A and length L is initially at
temperature T0 and is supplied with heat at a uniform and
constant rate q0 per unit rod length. Both ends of the rod are
maintained at temperature T0 . The relevant equations are thus

∂T (x, t) ∂ 2 T (x, t) q0
=κ 2
+ ,
∂t ∂x ρcA

with T (0, t) = T (L, t) = T0 , and T (x, 0) = T0 .

Describe how you expect the temperature to develop. Of particular
interest is the size of the maximum temperature in the rod (as a
function of the parameters of the problem) and the time taken to
reach equilibrium. Solve the steady state equations and thus
explicitly determine the dependence of the maximum temperature
on the parameters of the problem. Determine the transient
solution and plot out the solution for various (scaled) times using
A more general industrial problem: Toowoomba Foundry

Produces engine parts of different sizes and shapes by moulding;

that is by pouring molten iron into a mould and later removing the
mould. The parts are of different shapes and sizes. How long
should they wait before they remove the cast from the mould?
General Question: How long does it take a (hot) object of a
particular shape to cool?
Explicitly: How does the cooling time depend on the surface heat
transfer parameter, the conductivity of the body and its shape.
Other applications:
Moisture transfer across a leaf; plant growth
Drying of tea leaves (ITB)
Concrete curing, cancer.