Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Heat transfer


It has long been suspected that sleep is important for regulating body temperature and metabolic-rate. Hibernation, a state of acute hypothermia and reduced metabolic-rate, offers a promising system for investigating those relationships. Prior studies in hibernating ground squirrels report that, although sleep occurs during hibernation, it manifests only as non-REM sleep, and only at relatively high temperatures. In our study, we report data on sleep during hibernation in a lemuriform primate, Cheirogaleus medius. As the only primate known to experience prolonged periods of hibernation and as an inhabitant of more temperate climates than ground squirrels, this animal serves as an alternative model for exploring sleep temperature/metabolism relationships that may be uniquely relevant to understanding human physiology.

Concepts: Energy, Physiology, Climate, Temperature, Heat transfer, Cryobiology, Hibernation, Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur


The idea that low surface densities of hairs could be a heat loss mechanism is understood in engineering and has been postulated in some thermal studies of animals. However, its biological implications, both for thermoregulation as well as for the evolution of epidermal structures, have not yet been noted. Since early epidermal structures are poorly preserved in the fossil record, we study modern elephants to infer not only the heat transfer effect of present-day sparse hair, but also its potential evolutionary origins. Here we use a combination of theoretical and empirical approaches, and a range of hair densities determined from photographs, to test whether sparse hairs increase convective heat loss from elephant skin, thus serving an intentional evolutionary purpose. Our conclusion is that elephants are covered with hair that significantly enhances their thermoregulation ability by over 5% under all scenarios considered, and by up to 23% at low wind speeds where their thermoregulation needs are greatest. The broader biological significance of this finding suggests that maintaining a low-density hair cover can be evolutionary purposeful and beneficial, which is consistent with the fact that elephants have the greatest need for heat loss of any modern terrestrial animal because of their high body-volume to skin-surface ratio. Elephant hair is the first documented example in nature where increasing heat transfer due to a low hair density covering may be a desirable effect, and therefore raises the possibility of such a covering for similarly sized animals in the past. This elephant example dispels the widely-held assumption that in modern endotherms body hair functions exclusively as an insulator and could therefore be a first step to resolving the prior paradox of why hair was able to evolve in a world much warmer than our own.

Concepts: Evolution, Temperature, Heat, Convection, Heat transfer, Hair, Elephant, Paleontology


We present a systematic and quantitative model of huddling penguins. In this mathematical model, each individual penguin in the huddle seeks only to reduce its own heat loss. Consequently, penguins on the boundary of the huddle that are most exposed to the wind move downwind to more sheltered locations along the boundary. In contrast, penguins in the interior of the huddle neither have the space to move nor experience a significant heat loss, and they therefore remain stationary. Through these individual movements, the entire huddle experiences a robust cumulative effect that we identify, describe, and quantify. This mathematical model requires a calculation of the wind flowing around the huddle and of the resulting temperature distribution. Both of these must be recomputed each time an individual penguin moves since the huddle shape changes. Using our simulation results, we find that the key parameters affecting the huddle dynamics are the number of penguins in the huddle, the wind strength, and the amount of uncertainty in the movement of the penguins. Moreover, we find that the lone assumption of individual penguins minimizing their own heat loss results in all penguins having approximately equal access to the warmth of the huddle.

Concepts: Mathematics, Physics, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Heat transfer, Penguin, Wind


Mitochondria generate most of the heat in endotherms. Given some impedance of heat transfer across protein-rich bioenergetic membranes, mitochondria must operate at a higher temperature than body temperature in mammals and birds. But exactly how much hotter has been controversial, with physical calculations suggesting that maximal heat gradients across cells could not be greater than 10-5 K. Using the thermosensitive mitochondrial-targeted fluorescent dye Mito Thermo Yellow (MTY), Chrétien and colleagues suggest that mitochondria are optimised to nearly 50 °C, 10 °C hotter than body temperature. This extreme value questions what temperature really means in confined far-from-equilibrium systems but encourages a reconsideration of thermal biology.

Concepts: Energy, Thermoregulation, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Entropy, Internal energy, Heat transfer


In this study, the steady forced convection flow and heat transfer due to an impermeable stretching surface in a porous medium saturated with a nanofluid are investigated numerically. The Brinkman-Forchheimer model is used for the momentum equations (porous medium), whereas, Bongiorno’s model is used for the nanofluid. Uniform temperature and nanofluid volume fraction are assumed at the surface. The boundary layer equations are transformed to ordinary differential equations in terms of the governing parameters including Prandtl and Lewis numbers, viscosity ratio, porous medium, Brownian motion and thermophoresis parameters. Numerical results for the velocity, temperature and concentration profiles, as well as for the reduced Nusselt and Sherwood numbers are obtained and presented graphically.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Thermodynamics, Heat, Fluid mechanics, Differential equation, Heat transfer, Drag, Boundary layer


In this study, the authors report the production of nanocomposite-enhanced phase-change materials (NEPCMs) using the direct-synthesis method by mixing paraffin with alumina (Al2O3), titania (TiO2), silica (SiO2), and zinc oxide (ZnO) as the experimental samples. Al2O3, TiO2, SiO2, and ZnO were dispersed into three concentrations of 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 wt.%. Through heat conduction and differential scanning calorimeter experiments to evaluate the effects of varying concentrations of the nano-additives on the heat conduction performance and thermal storage characteristics of NEPCMs, their feasibility for use in thermal storage was determined. The experimental results demonstrate that TiO2 is more effective than the other additives in enhancing both the heat conduction and thermal storage performance of paraffin for most of the experimental parameters. Furthermore, TiO2 reduces the melting onset temperature and increases the solidification onset temperature of paraffin. This allows the phase-change heat to be applicable to a wider temperature range, and the highest decreased ratio of phase-change heat is only 0.46%, compared to that of paraffin. Therefore, this study demonstrates that TiO2, added to paraffin to form NEPCMs, has significant potential for enhancing the thermal storage characteristics of paraffin.

Concepts: Temperature, Thermodynamics, Oxides, Titanium dioxide, Heat transfer, Zinc oxide, Sunscreen, Common oxide glass components


The unsteady natural convection heat transfer of nanofluid along a vertical plate embedded in porous medium is investigated. The Darcy-Forchheimer model is used to formulate the problem. Thermal conductivity and viscosity models based on a wide range of experimental data of nanofluids and incorporating the velocity-slip effect of the nanoparticle with respect to the base fluid, i.e., Brownian diffusion is used. The effective thermal conductivity of nanofluid in porous media is calculated using copper powder as porous media. The nonlinear governing equations are solved using an unconditionally stable implicit finite difference scheme. In this study, six different types of nanofluids have been compared with respect to the heat transfer enhancement, and the effects of particle concentration, particle size, temperature of the plate, and porosity of the medium on the heat transfer enhancement and skin friction coefficient have been studied in detail. It is found that heat transfer rate increases with the increase in particle concentration up to an optimal level, but on the further increase in particle concentration, the heat transfer rate decreases. For a particular value of particle concentration, small-sized particles enhance the heat transfer rates. On the other hand, skin friction coefficients always increase with the increase in particle concentration and decrease in nanoparticle size.

Concepts: Temperature, Heat, Convection, Hydrogeology, Porosity, Thermal conductivity, Heat transfer, Porous medium


The head warming in hypothermic victims is an alternative way of heat donation, which does not inhibit shivering and does not impede the access to the patient’s chest. It seems to be a safe method in mild hypothermia. The authors of the review article “Accidental hypothermia - an update” suggest this way of heat donation, without indicating precisely, in which group of patients it can be applied. In severe hypothermia, the brain-protective effect of cold is well known. The decreased need of oxygen allows good neurological outcome after long lasting cardiac arrest. Therefore, in deep hypothermia, the brain tissue should be rather insulated from the heat source than warmed.

Concepts: Brain, Hypoglycemia, Asystole, Hypothermia, Therapeutic hypothermia, Heat transfer, Drowning, Shivering


Here we see why humans unwittingly build fires that look the same: edifices of fuel, as tall as they are wide. The pile of fuel is permeable, air invades it by natural convection and drives the combustion. I show that the hottest pile of burning fuel occurs when the height of the pile is roughly the same as its base diameter. Future studies may address the shape effect of wind, material type, and packing. Key is why humans of all eras have been relying on this design of fire “unwittingly”. The reason is that the heat flow from fire facilitates the movement and spreading of human mass on the globe.

Concepts: Human, Nitrogen, Heat, Human height, Heat transfer, Fire, Combustion, Fuel


There has been a growing interest in thermal management materials due to the prevailing energy challenges and unfulfilled needs for thermal insulation applications. We demonstrate the exceptional thermal management capabilities of a large-scale, hierarchal alignment of cellulose nanofibrils directly fabricated from wood, hereafter referred to as nanowood. Nanowood exhibits anisotropic thermal properties with an extremely low thermal conductivity of 0.03 W/m·K in the transverse direction (perpendicular to the nanofibrils) and approximately two times higher thermal conductivity of 0.06 W/m·K in the axial direction due to the hierarchically aligned nanofibrils within the highly porous backbone. The anisotropy of the thermal conductivity enables efficient thermal dissipation along the axial direction, thereby preventing local overheating on the illuminated side while yielding improved thermal insulation along the backside that cannot be obtained with isotropic thermal insulators. The nanowood also shows a low emissivity of <5% over the solar spectrum with the ability to effectively reflect solar thermal energy. Moreover, the nanowood is lightweight yet strong, owing to the effective bonding between the aligned cellulose nanofibrils with a high compressive strength of 13 MPa in the axial direction and 20 MPa in the transverse direction at 75% strain, which exceeds other thermal insulation materials, such as silica and polymer aerogels, Styrofoam, and wool. The excellent thermal management, abundance, biodegradability, high mechanical strength, low mass density, and manufacturing scalability of the nanowood make this material highly attractive for practical thermal insulation applications.

Concepts: Carbon, Heat, Materials science, Compressive strength, Heat transfer, Thermal insulation, Building insulation, Insulator