'Thermal ghosts': Apparent decay of fixed surfaces caused by heat diffusion

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The behaviour concerning classical heat diffusion on fixed thermal surfaces, studied by observations, still holds surprises. As soon as convective and radiative processes are negligible within the medium, this is considered to be free from energy sources and sinks. Then, the heat diffusion equation is conveniently solved using standard Fourier methods. Some considerations about the contrast effect suggest that the surface boundary would rather be observed to follow specific area decay dynamics than remaining fixed and static. Here it is shown that the apparent boundary lies on a specific isothermal spatiotemporal curve, which depends on the observing device. This is characterized by a slight, though determinative, difference between its radiance and that of the ambient background. Thereafter, the heat diffusion yields apparent boundary shrinkage with the passing of time. This phenomenon is particularly notable for two reasons: its lifetime and final decay rate depend only on the medium thermal properties, while being independent of the apparent boundary spatiotemporal curve. Thus, the former provides a suitable method for measuring the medium thermal properties via the observational data. The latter strongly reveal a kind of universality of some characteristic properties of the phenomenon, common to all observers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number032
Pages (from-to)907-913
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 7 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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