A standard topic in introductory physics classes is heat transfer by conduction. In the simplest case a uniformrectangular slab has one face held at a temperature T1 and the opposite face at a temperature T2. The rate of heat flow from the first face to the second face is given by


where k is the thermal conductivity of the material, A is the surface area of one face, and L is the distance between the two faces. A standard variation on this problem is the multilayer slab which can be used to model insulated walls or double-pane windows.

A common mistake in introductory textbooks is to use unrealistic values for the temperatures in realistic problems. Of particular note are problems dealing with thermal conductivity through windows in which the interior surface of the...

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