2023-2024 / MECA0445-2

Heat transfer


28h Th, 24h Pr, 4h Labo., 9h Proj.

Number of credits

 Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Architectural Engineering5 crédits 
 Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Engineering5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Aerospace Engineering5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Electromechanical Engineering5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Mechanical Engineering (EMSHIP+, Erasmus Mundus)5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Engineering Physics5 crédits 


Pierre Dewallef, Vincent Terrapon

Language(s) of instruction

English language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The transfer of energy as heat plays a key role, not only in technical applications (energy production, engines, cooling of electronic components, buildings, ...), but also in our daily life (climate and weather, cooking, human body, ...). It is almost impossible to find examples where heat transfer is absent. It is also directly linked to today's challenges of energy and environment. Heat transfer is therefore a key subject in the curriculum of engineers and architects. 

Heat transfer represents the transfer of thermal energy from a warm body to a colder one. The objective of the course is thus to quantitatively relate heat fluxes to temperature gradients. 

There are three main heat transfer modes: conduction, convection and radiation. The course focuses first on each mode separately, and then on multimode heat transfers. For each mode, the underlying physical processes are described and quantitative laws are developped. Theoretical notions are illustrated through numerous practical examples from our daily life.

In particular, following topics are covered:

  • Physical origin of the different heat transfer mechanisms (conduction, convection, radiation) and key definitions (flux, heat, temperature...), conservation equations, relation to thermodynamics, general solution methodology.
  • Conduction: Fourier's law, heat diffusion equation (1D, 2D, unsteady), shape factor, analogy with electrical circuits
  • Convection: velocity and thermal boundary layer, convection coefficient, Nusselt number, laminar vs. turbulent, natural vs. forced, external vs. internal
  • Boiling and condensation: critical point, nucleate pool boiling, film condensation
  • Heat exchangers: analysis of different types (parallel, counter-flow) and definition of performance parameters (number of transfer units NTU, log mean temperature difference)
  • Radiation: emission, irradiation, black body, gray surface, real surfaces, view factors
  • Multimode heat transfer

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

At the end of the course, students should be able to quantify the heat transfer in a large range of practical applications. This involves the following skills:

  • to decompose the problem into smaller parts
  • to identify the relevant heat transfer processes 
  • to evaluate the non-dimensional numbers characterizing the different heat transfer modes
  • to relate the non-dimensional numbers to the physics
  • to select and apply the appropriate principles of conservation and constitutive laws
  • to identify the appropriate empirical correlations
  • to use the appropriate resolution method and quantify the heat transfer and/or temperatures
  • to critically assess and discuss the results
This course contributes to the learning outcomes I.1, I.2, III.1, III.2, IV.1, VII.4, VII.5 of the BSc in engineering.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

To efficiently follow this course, it is recommended to have some basic knowledge of Thermodynamics (e.g., "CHIM0286 "Elements de thermodynamique") and mathematics (e.g., MATH0007 "Analyse mathématique II").

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

The course is divided into 11 formal lectures that take place each Monday morning. The material covered in each lecture corresponds to one or two chapters of the textbook, successively covering the three main parts of the course: conduction, convection and radiation.

Each lecture is divided in two parts. The second part, taught in English by the instructors, corresponds to the theoretical course, where the general concepts and their mathematical formulation are exposed. Theoretical results are also discussed in details and illustrated through practical examples. 

The theory part is preceded by an exercise session of two hours (except the first week), during which the students are invited to apply the techniques introduced during the previous theory sessions in order to solve practical problems. This session is chaired by the course assistants, and is done in smaller groups, either in French or in English.

Learning activities also include two homework exercises to be solved individually at home. These homework are evaluated and count towards the final grade. Their objective is to ensure a continuous learning of the subject, to allow a self-evaluation for the students, and to help the instructors in identifying the difficulties encounted by the students.

A detailed calendar of the course material and deadlines will be presented during the first lecture et distributed electronically to all registered students.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

Both the theoretical lectures and the exercise sessions are face-to-face. Podcasts of the theoretical lectures are available on the course webpage. 

The theoretical lectures are taught in English, and the exercise sessions in French or in English depending on the choice of the student.

Depending on the evolution of the sanitary situation, the course might need to be reorganized.

Recommended or required readings

The mandatory reference book is:

"Incropera's Principles of Heat and Mass Transfer"
Incropera, Dewitt, Bergman & Lavine
Global Edition
John Wiley & Sons (2017)
ISBN: 978-1-119-38291-1

This reference is one of the best textbook on the topic of heat transfer. It is in English, so that students can familiarize themselves with the technical notions in English. Moreover, numerous practical examples are developed and a large number of additional exercises is proposed for the students to practice. The course faithfully follows the textbook. 

It can be obtained

  • through the Centrale des Cours (please reserve your copy in advance),
  • in different bookshops (it might be necessary to order it),
  • as electronic version (e-book) on the editor website.
A copy is available for consultation at the library.

Other course material (lecture slides, podcasts, problem sets, solutions, ...) are posted weekly on the course website: www.mtfc.uliege.be/Heat-transfer.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam ( open-ended questions )

Written work / report

Additional information:

For the 1st session, the final grade is obtained from 2 contributions:

  • Final exam: 90%
  • 2 individual homework exercises: 10%
For the 2nd session, the global contribution of the 2 homework problems only counts if it improves the final grade. If not, the final grade corresponds to the grade of the final exam of the 2nd session.

The written exam is a closed-book exam. However, the objective is not that students learn all correlations by heart. Therefore, a summary of all important correlations (taken from the textbook) is distributed at the exam. 

Students must bring an official identification to take the exam. A calculator can be used, but any GSM, tablet, PC or similar are forbidden.

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

The course is jointly taught by Prof. Dewallef and Prof. Terrapon. The exact schedule and the deadlines are communicated during the first lecture.

The theoretical lectures are taught in English and the exercise sessions in French and/or in English.

Depending on the sanitary situation, some organizational changes might be necessary.

There is no major change with respect to previous year.


Students are encouraged to actively interact with the professors, also outside of the lectures. It is highly recommended to set up an appointment first. For questions regarding the exercise sessions and the graded homework, the students can contact directly the assistants.

It is expected that the students follow a few basic rules when communicating by email:

  • Indicate as subject "MECA0445: ...".
  • Only use ULg addresses (xxx@student.uliege.be).
  • Always address emails to both lecturers (or to all the assistants) and not only to one.
  • Follow the elementary rules of politeness.

Prof. Pierre DEWALLEF; Laboratoire de Thermodynamique; B49, R2; +32(0)4 366 9995; p.dewallef@uliege.be; www.labothap.uliege.be

Prof. Vincent E. TERRAPON; MTFC research group; B52, 0/415; +32(0)4 366 9268; vincent.terrapon@uliege.be; www.mtfc.uliege.be

Association of one or more MOOCs