Thermal Conductivity of Sodium (liquid)
Liquid sodium is used as a heat transfer fluid in some types of nuclear reactors because it has the high thermal conductivity and low neutron absorption cross section required to achieve a high neutron flux in the reactor. The high thermal conductivity properties effectively create a reservoir of heat capacity which provides thermal inertia against overheating.
Special reference: Thermophysical Properties of Materials For Nuclear Engineering: A Tutorial and Collection of Data. IAEA-THPH, IAEA, Vienna, 2008. ISBN 978–92–0–106508–7.
Thermal Conductivity of Liquids
As was written, in liquids, the thermal conduction is caused by atomic or molecular diffusion, but physical mechanisms for explaining the thermal conductivity of liquids are not well understood. Liquids tend to have better thermal conductivity than gases, and the ability to flow makes a liquid suitable for removing excess heat from mechanical components. The heat can be removed by channeling the liquid through a heat exchanger. The coolants used in nuclear reactors include water or liquid metals, such as sodium or lead.
The thermal conductivity of nonmetallic liquids generally decreases with increasing temperature.
Thermal Conductivity of Metals
Metals are solids and as such they possess crystalline structure where the ions (nuclei with their surrounding shells of core electrons) occupy translationally equivalent positions in the crystal lattice. Metals in general have high electrical conductivity, high thermal conductivity, and high density. Accordingly, transport of thermal energy may be due to two effects:
- the migration of free electrons
- lattice vibrational waves (phonons).
When electrons and phonons carry thermal energy leading to conduction heat transfer in a solid, the thermal conductivity may be expressed as:
k = ke + kph
The unique feature of metals as far as their structure is concerned is the presence of charge carriers, specifically electrons. The electrical and thermal conductivities of metals originate fromthe fact that their outer electrons are delocalized. Their contribution to the thermal conductivity is referred to as the electronic thermal conductivity, ke. In fact, in pure metals such as gold, silver, copper, and aluminum, the heat current associated with the flow of electrons by far exceeds a small contribution due to the flow of phonons. In contrast, for alloys, the contribution of kph to k is no longer negligible.