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# Convective transfer of energy

Convective transfer of energy involves three or more systems, which may be closed or open. A process of convection takes some finite amount of time, because it involves three steps at least. The simplest kind of convection has a hot reservoir, a cold reservoir, and a carrier body. In this simplest kind of convection, the carrier body exchanges heat successively with the respective thermal reservoirs. The second law of thermodynamics requires the carrier body to be initially colder than the hot reservoir and finally warmer than the cold reservoir. For convection in general, the transfers of energy can be of more general kinds. For example, for convection between open systems, the transfers may be more conveniently described in terms of internal energy, or of enthalpy, or of some other quantity of energy. Here a convenient model is described by internal energy. First, the carrier body increases its internal energy by taking internal energy from the source reservoir. Then it moves through space and carries its internal energy from the location of the source reservoir to that of the destination reservoir; this step is characteristic of convection, and is sometimes called advection. Then it decreases its internal energy by giving energy to the destination reservoir. Convection can transfer internal energy as latent heat, and can be from a source at a lower temperature to a destination at a higher one, work being provided to drive the transfer.

Notation and units

As a form of energy heat has the unit joule (J) in the International System of Units (SI). However, in many applied fields in engineering the British Thermal Unit (BTU) and the calorie are often used. The standard unit for the rate of heat transferred is the watt (W), defined as joules per second.

The total amount of energy transferred as heat is conventionally written as Q for algebraic purposes. Heat released by a system into its surroundings is by convention a negative quantity (Q < 0); when a system absorbs heat from its surroundings, it is positive (Q > 0). Heat transfer rate, or heat flow per unit time, is denoted by . This should not be confused with a time derivative of a function of state (which can also be written with the dot notation) since heat is not a function of state. Heat flux is defined as rate of heat transfer per unit cross-sectional area, resulting in the unit watts per square metre.

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