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UMass Research Team Expands Our Understanding of Fourier’s Law

In today’s ever-changing world, nothing ever stays the same! That trend reportedly extends even to the tenets of Fourier’s Law, a 200-year-old science-based principle that defines how heat diffuses through solid materials.

According to an article posted in early March to the website of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a team of UMass researchers has found a new exception to Fourier’s Law, one dealing with electromagnetic radiation and its interaction with certain common materials such as plastics or glasses.

Fourier’s Law broadly applies to the diffusion of heat through solid materials, and the researchers were interested in determining whether heat could be transmitted through materials using pathways other than those defined by the Law. After extensive experimentation, the researchers determined that certain translucent materials can also support internal energy radiation, radiation that then interacts with small structural imperfections in the materials and allows them to become secondary heat sources.

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The researchers were quick to point out the limits of their research. According to the lead researcher, Steve Granick, a Professor of Polymer Science and Engineering at UMass Amherst, “It’s not the Fourier’s Law is wrong, just that it doesn’t explain everything we see when it comes to heat transmission.”

Granick believes that his team’s research may provide new opportunities for design engineers. “Fundamental research like ours gives us an expanded understanding of how heat works, which will offer engineers new strategies for designing heat circuits.”

Read the article discussing the findings of the UMass Amherst research team on Fourier’s Law.

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