Error Analysis and Equations for the Thermal Conductivity of Composites

  • J. D. Patterson


The overall effective thermal conductivity (K) of a composite is a function of the thermal conductivities (K1) and volume fractions (ϕi) of each of the constituents. Probable errors (ΔK. and Δϕi) for each of the constituents lead to a probable error (ΔK) in the overall thermal conductivity. For realistic problems, the exact function K(Ki, ϕi) is not known since it depends on the way the constituents are distributed. For this reason equations which describe the bounds on the thermal conductivity, for given Ki and ϕi, are very useful. Using standard calculational techniques, we plot K, K + ΔK, and K − ΔK versus volume fraction of one constituent for several cases of two-phase systems. These include the series and parallel cases as “absolute bounds” and the Maxwell equations which are the bounds for systems which are isotropic and homogeneous. We find, for common values of K1/K2, that the bounding equations overlap when errors are considered. This implies three things: (1) A measurement of thermal conductivity of a composite, when errors are taken into account, may not allow discrimination between cases. (2) For many cases of experimental interest a rough calculation is quite sufficient. (3) The bounds on the thermal conductivity are really not unconditional when errors are taken into account. We also consider two-phase composites where cylinders are embedded in a matrix. Complications in the calculation of the thermal conductivity include the effect of radiation, the effect of moisture and convection, and thermal resistance in the interface between phases.


Thermal Conductivity Probable Error Effective Thermal Conductivity Effective Dielectric Constant Rough Calculation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    DeYoung, H.G. “Plastic Composites Fight for Status”, High Technology 3, No. 10, 63 (1983)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hale, D.K. “The Physical Properties of Composite Materials,” J. Materials Science 11, 2103 (1976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Parrott, J.E. and Stuckes, A.D., “Thermal Conductivity of Solids,” PION Limited, London (1975), Chapter 6Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Slack, G.A. “The Thermal Conductivity of Nonmetallic Crystals, Solid State Physics”. 34, 1 (1979)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Taylor, J.R. “An Introduction to Error Analysis,” University Science Books, Mill Valley, CA (1982. Ch. 3 and Ch. 5)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Chen, F.C., Choy, C.L. and Young, K., “A Theory of the Thermal Conductivity of Composite Materials,” J. Phys. D. 10, 571 (1976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bergman, D.J., “The Dielectric Constant of a Composite Material - A Problem in Classical Physics,” Phys. Reports 43, 377 (1978). Also Appendix 2 of this paper.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mitoff, S.P. “Properties Calculations for Heterogeneous Systems,” Advances in Materials Research 3, 305 (1960)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Purdue Research Foundation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. D. Patterson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsSouth Dakota School of Mines and TechnologyRapid CityUSA

Personalised recommendations