World's Fastest Heat Conductor Broken down to Show Just How Quickly It Works

Stark comparisons between a copper rod and a heat pipe are drawn in this video.
Fabienne Lang

The world's fastest heat-conducting material is called a heat pipe. In this short and sweet video, The Action Lab — a YouTube video creator — breaks down just how a heat pipe functions so quickly. 

The heat pipe and the copper rod are placed under a heat-detecting material. An ice cube is then placed on top of the respective pipes and is used to show how quickly the heat pipe conducts the temperature. On the heat pipe, the process is almost instantaneous.

So, just how quickly are we talking? The heat pipe is two orders of magnitude faster than a copper rod. Copper can transfer heat at 0.4 kilowatts per Meter-Kelvin, and the heat pipe can transfer heat at 100 kilowatts per Meter-Kelvin. Quite the stark difference.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, the video creator split open the end of the heat pipe and bent the ends away from each other — to see the inside of the spongy inner pipe.

The heat pipe is still made out of copper, but the fast heat-conducting aspects of it come from the water vapor inside of it. By quickly pushing the water from one side to the other, it heats the pipe. The magic lies in the fact that the heat pipe continually pushes hot and cold from one end of the pipe to the other side of the pipe.