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The influence of thermal diffusion on water migration through a porous insulation material


Excess water on pipes and equipment under porous insulation materials can lead to undesired corrosion. This work aims to clarify to what extent thermal diffusion affects the migration of water inside insulation materials subject to large temperature gradients. Since no experimental data is available on the thermal diffusion coefficients of humid air, revised Enskog theory for Mie fluids is used to estimate transport properties. Comparison to experimental data from literature shows that the theory reproduces the diffusion coefficient, viscosity and thermal conductivity of humid air within 8.7%, 5.0% and 3.5% respectively. The small discrepancies suggest that the theory can also provide reliable estimates of the thermal diffusion coefficients. In the investigated composition and temperature range, the theory predicts the Soret coefficient of water to be approximately [Formula presented], while the Soret coefficient of oxygen varies from [Formula presented] to +[Formula presented]. A case study with heating of glass wool insulation containing humid air, encapsulating a cylindrical pipe is investigated. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics is used to consistently incorporate the Soret coefficients into the flux equations in a dynamic, non-isothermal model that includes diffusion, convection, thermal conduction and water sorption in the porous medium. With 50 K temperature difference across 5 cm of insulation, we find that at steady-state, thermal diffusion leads to a mole fraction of water in the gas phase that is about 1.5% higher at the hot location than if thermal diffusion is neglected. © 2024 The Author(s)


Academic article


  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 262644
  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 308770





  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • SINTEF Energy Research / Gassteknologi



Published in

International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer





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