Experimental evidence exists that the addition of a small quantity of nanoparticles to a base fluid, can have a significant impact on the effective thermal conductivity of the resulting suspension. The causes for this are currently thought to be due to a combination of two distinct mechanisms. The first is due to the change in the thermophysical properties of the suspension, resulting from the difference in the thermal conductivity of the fluid and the particles, and the second is thought to be due to the transport of thermal energy by the particles, due to the Brownian motion of the particles. In order to better understand these phenomena, a theoretical model has been developed that examines the effect of the Brownian motion. In this model, the well-known approach first presented by Maxwell, is combined with a new expression that incorporates the effect of the Brownian motion and describes the physical phenomena that occurs because of it. The results indicate that the enhanced thermal conductivity may not in fact be due to the transport of energy by the particles, but rather, due to the stirring motion caused by the movement of the nanoparticles which enhances the heat transfer within the fluid. The resulting model shows good agreement when compared with the existing experimental data and perhaps more importantly helps to explain the trends observed from a fundamental physical perspective. In addition, it provides a possible explanation for the differences that have been observed between the previously obtained experimental data, the predictions obtained from Maxwell’s equation and the theoretical models developed by other investigators.

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