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Thermal Conductivity

Rate of thermal energy travel through a material per unit thickness and unit temperature difference. Uses units of power (energy per unit time) per distance (specimen thickness) per temperature (temperature difference).

As with electrical conductivity, the inverse of thermal conductivity is thermal resistivity — but that property is seldom used.

ASTM testing standards include E1952 (using a differential scanner calorimeter) and E2584 (using a thermal capacitance calorimeter). ISO standards include 8894 (refractories) and 22007 (plastics).

Thermal conductivity has a more complicated relationship with temperature than most other thermal properties. Depending on the material, conductivity may either rise or fall with increasing temperature. Rising is more common, however.

For very pure materials, thermal conductivity can peak drastically near absolute zero. Pure aluminum can reach 6000 W/m-K around 10 degrees Kelvin, while copper goes up to 4000.

Material Properties Explained

Material Properties Explained is a handbook published by It is a concise encyclopedia of engineering material properties. It is not tied to the material properties database, and covers a far larger number of properties than those used on the website. Subject matter includes:

  • Differences in definition and testing between types of materials.
  • Common testing variations and their significance.
  • What additional information is required to correctly interpret a value.
  • Any equations to calculate or estimate property values.
  • Synonyms and related terms.
  • Relevant international testing standards, including both ASTM and ISO.

To purchase a digital (PDF) copy: Material Properties Explained.

An unconditional 30 day money-back guarantee is provided. If the book disappoints you, email us, and we'll refund your money. No questions asked.