A simple transient method for measurement of thermal conductivity of rigid polyurethane foams

G. Harikrishnan, Christopher W. MacOsko, Jeung Hwan Choi, John C. Bischof, Sachidanada N. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Rigid polyurethane foams (PU) are widely used as thermal insulators in various applications. The thermal conductivity of the foam is the key parameter that governs the efficiency of thermal insulation provided by the foam. The usual technique employed to measure thermal conductivity is based on the rate of steady state heat transfer across a known thickness, induced by two different known temperatures at two opposite surfaces of the foam. We introduce a technique based on the transient measurement of heat transfer measured by an embedded needle probe. This technique is not only rapid but the instrumentation required for such a measurement is simple and the cost is only a fraction of the steady state counterpart. The values of thermal conductivity obtained by both methods are compared and found to agree within 4% over the range of 0.02-0.03 W/mK, which is the usual range of thermal conductivity for commercial rigid PU foams. The sensitivity of the needle probe technique is demonstrated by measuring the thermal conductivity values of foams made with various concentrations of chemical blowing agent (water). The present technique is also shown to be effective for measuring the thermal conductivity of small samples, especially, free rise cup foams for which the steady state technique can not be used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-491
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cellular Plastics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Insulation foam
  • Needle probe
  • Rigid polyurethane foam
  • Thermal conductivity measurement
  • Thermal resistance
  • Transient technique


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