Heat transfer by free convection in air from isothermal horizontal surfaces heated and facing upward has been experimentally studied by using a Mach-Zehnder interferometer. The local and the average heat-transfer coefficients and the temperature distributions were determined in the range of Gr Pr from 1.9 × 106 to 1.7 × 108. Measurements were compared with available experimental and theoretical results. Periodical flow instabilities caused random changes, which could reach +45 and −35 percent of mean values in the local Nusselt number and +23 and −15 percent of mean value in the average Nusselt number. The nature of the free convection flow over the heated surface and the separation of the boundary layer were inferred from these random changes in the local and average Nusselt numbers.

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