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Difference Between Conduction And Convection

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Conduction and convection are two different methods for transmitting heat. Conduction is the transmission of heat through solids, liquids, and gases by molecular movement. Convection is the transfer of heat by means of currents in fluids, or gases that can be set into motion. This process typically occurs in liquids or gases that have a lower density than their surroundings. 

What is Conduction?

conduction transfer
Heat Transfer by Conduction, Chemical Engineering World

Conduction is the transfer of heat through solids, liquids, and gases by molecular movement from warmer parts to cooler ones. Conduction occurs when two objects are in direct contact with one another as a result of sharing an adjoining boundary e.g., touching or overlapping each other. In this process, energy passes between particles due to collisions as they move past each other. When an object heats up it becomes less dense because its molecules vibrate more rapidly which causes them to spread out thus creating spaces where there were none before. Therefore, heat can pass easily into these areas within a material that has been heated since the density will be lower there than surrounding materials at room temperature (permitting easier transmission).

What is Convection?

convection transfer
Heat Transfer by Convection

Convection is the transfer of heat by means of currents in fluids, or gases that can be set into motion. Convection occurs when a fluid (liquid or gas) is heated and its molecules become less dense causing it to rise while cooler surrounding particles sink thus creating circular movement within the material. This flow of warm and cold masses helps to distribute heat evenly throughout an object but also prevents areas from becoming too hot since cool air will always replace warmer sections as they move upwards. Convection is due to thermal contact of the movement of fluid particles between objects causing them to touch each other, which in turn provides a pathway for heat transfer.  Note that there must be some force on the fluid facilitating its motion.

Key differences between Conduction & Convection

conduction vs convection
Illustration of Conduction Vs Convection Heat Transfer

Difference based on examples

Conduction occurs on Earth due to direct contact between materials such as touching metal with your hands which transfers some of the energy stored in them out through your skin. It also happens inside ovens where you can feel the heat that is transferred to your hand when you touch it or in microwaves where molecules are forced rapidly back and forth causing friction that heats up the food.

Convection occurs on Earth due to the heating of air, water, or any other fluid within a container such as boiling water for cooking rice over an open flame (gas stove) because this process moves material from one place to another by means of currents. Another example would be hot air balloons since helium gas expands if heated causing the balloon to rise into the sky while cooler surrounding particles sink down towards ground level making their way around obstacles until convective equilibrium is achieved again.

Temperature Difference

To explain the difference between Conduction and Convection, let's first understand what temperature is. Temperature can be defined as a "thermal property that indicates the hotness or coldness of an object". In order to transfer heat from one place to another, there must be some form of thermal contact between two objects. Conduction happens mainly due to a constant temperature difference while Convection happens due to a difference in density and buoyancy.

In Conduction, the heat is transported from a place of high temperature to another place with low temperature.

Heat transfer by conduction is due to the difference in temp between two objects. In convection, on the other hand, there need not be any external force acting on the object and it can happen even if they are separated. This is referred to as Natural Convection. Another form of convection called Forced Convection requires some external force such as a blowing fan.

Difference in Effectiveness

Each method of transferring energy from one object or place to another has its own advantages and disadvantages. Conduction is very efficient because heat travels through particles at different temperatures. This allows the energy to transfer more effectively since it does not have to change direction or get transmitted from one object to another via a fluid. Though in fluids & gases convection is more effective since it can transfer energy much faster.

Similarities between Conduction & Convection

Both conduction and convection are heat transfer modes. They both also require direct contact between the heat source and object in order to be effective. They both need some sort of molecular movement in order for heat to be transferred.


What are the different types of conduction?

There are mainly two types of conduction, steady-state & transient conduction.

What are the different types of convection?

Convection is mainly divided into two categories which include natural & forced. They are both different in terms of how they occur.

Which one is faster?

Convection is typically faster than conduction because it doesn't require direct contact between the heat source and object. Conduction requires that there be physical contact.

What kind of heat transfer occurs mostly on the earth?

Conduction is the main heat transfer mode that occurs on Earth. The reason for this being it requires direct contact between objects, which typically happens when things are in closer proximity to each other.

How are they different in terms of heat transfer?

Convection occurs when there's forced movement involved, while conduction takes place with objects that are touching each other. Convection involves heated fluids or gases rising to cooler fluids or gases. Conduction is when heat passes between two objects that are touching each other.


In this article, we have explored the difference between conduction and convection. From our discussion, you should now understand what each process is and how it can be used to heat up an object or area of space. Convection & Conduction are two very important concepts in many parts of physics and engineering, so it’s worth understanding well!


Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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