Understanding The Difference Between Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics

In mechanical engineering or general engineering disciplines, thermodynamics and heat transfer categories are very important categories to obtain useful engineering systems for human civilization. In the first look, one may think that thermodynamics and heat transfer are the same disciplines that deal with the same phenomenons. This phenomenon is heated. 

If you look at the thermodynamics textbooks and heat transfer textbooks, you will see that the two books are mainly about heat and heat energy. But, there is a very deep difference between these two engineering disciplines. A good engineer must understand and express this deep difference between thermodynamics and heat transfer. 

Schaum’s Outline of Heat Transfer, 2nd Edition (Schaum’s Outlines)

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What Is The Difference Between Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer?

In most basic words thermodynamics deals with the amount of heat transfer and making calculations to obtain results for optimizations on a system. Heat transfer deals with the rate of heat transfer. So, the total time consumed in heat transfer between two bodies or two substances is very important for heat transfer calculations. 

Because of this difference, thermodynamics is not interested in the heat transfer mechanisms. The information about total heat transfer is enough for thermodynamics. How that heat transfer took place is not a subject of thermodynamics. 

Thanks to thermodynamics, we have much more efficient mechanical systems such as refrigerators, engines, and other appliances or devices. With the application of thermodynamics discipline to these devices, you can realize how to develop the efficiency and performance of these devices with the calculation of amounts of heat transfers. 

Heat transfer deals with the rate of heat transfer. Unlike thermodynamics, heat transfer mechanisms play important role in here. Convection, radiation, and convection are the three main heat transfer mechanisms. For heat transfer between two bodies, there must be a temperature difference between two bodies. Without temperature difference, there will be no heat transfer. 

To calculate the rate of heat transfer, these heat transfer mechanism calculations must be established and used. For example, the rate of heat transfer between the human body and the environment is very important for health. We are using special coffee containers. We want, these containers to hold our coffee hot throughout the day. To obtain a coffee container like this, we need to calculate the heat transfer mechanisms. 

We can not disconnect the thermodynamics and heat transfer disciplines from each other. We need to use these two disciplines to obtain useful and modern engineering systems. To design an engine, you must use these two disciplines at the same time. 


This can be a very summary and useful article to understand the difference between the thermodynamics and heat transfer engineering disciplines. 

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