Are covalent compounds good conductors of heat?

Covalent compounds are the most common type of chemical compound found in our daily lives. See the image below.

In this article, we’ll cover

  1. Thermal Conductivity
  2. Insulators
  3. Transfer of Heat
  4. Poor Covalent Compounds
  5. Why Are Covalent Compounds Bad Conductors Of Heat?
  6. Examples
  7. Graphite as a good conductor of heat

Thermal Conductivity

A heat conductor is a material that transfers heat from one point to another. The rate at which heat is conducted depends on the material’s ability to absorb and release heat. Some materials, such as metals, are good conductors of heat because they readily absorb and release heat.

Heat Conductor- Transfer of heat
Heat Conductor- Transfer of heat (Source)

Other materials, such as insulation, are poor conductors of heat because they do not readily absorb or release heat.

The ability of a material to conduct heat can be measured by its thermal conductivity. Thermal conductivity is a measure of a material’s ability to conduct heat. The higher the thermal conductivity of a material, the better it conducts heat.

Metals have high thermal conductivities, while insulation has low thermal conductivities. When selecting a heat conductor for a particular application, it is important to consider the thermal conductivity of the material. The thermal conductivity of the material will determine how well it conducts heat.

Thermal Conductivity
Thermal Conductivity (Source)

For applications where high thermal conductivity is desired, metals are often the best choice. For applications where low thermal conductivity is desired, insulation is often the best choice.

heat Insulators

Heat Insulators are materials that are used to prevent the transfer of heat. The three types of heat transfer are conduction, convection, and radiation. Most materials are good insulators of heat because they have a low thermal conductivity. This means that they do not allow heat to pass through them easily. Some common examples of heat insulators are air, glass, wood, wool, and plastics. They are used in a variety of applications such as insulation for buildings and homes, thermal clothing, and food storage. Heat insulators are an essential part of our daily lives and play a vital role in keeping us comfortable and safe.

Transfer of Heat

The ability of a material to conduct heat is determined by the number of free electrons it contains. This is because thermal energy is transferred between molecules via collisions between electrons. The more free electrons a material has, the more often these collisions will occur, and the greater the rate of heat transfer will be.

Thermal energy via collisions between electrons.(Source)

This explains why metals are such good conductors of heat; they have large numbers of free electrons that are able to move freely around the atomic lattice. In contrast, non-metals typically have very few free electrons, and as a result, they are poor conductors of heat. This property is exploited in applications such as insulation, where materials with low thermal conductivity are used to limit the transfer of heat.

Poor Covalent Compounds

Covalent compounds are poor conductors of heat for two primary reasons. First, they generally have strong share bonds between atoms. This means that there are fewer to negligible free electrons available to carry heat energy. Second, covalent compounds tend to have large molecules. This gives the molecules more opportunity to collide with one another, which slows down the transfer of heat.

This gives the molecules more opportunity to collide with one another, which slows down the transfer of heat. Broadly speaking, these properties make covalent compounds poor conductors of both electricity and heat.

However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. For example, graphite is a covalent compound that is an excellent conductor of electricity. This is due to the fact that it has a unique structure in which layers of carbon atoms are bonded together by weak bonds. This allows the free electrons to move freely through the layers, making graphite an excellent conductor of heat and electricity.

In contrast, metals are excellent conductors of heat because the electrons are free to move around between the atoms. This means that heat energy can be quickly transferred from one atom to another, allowing metals to quickly change temperature. As a result, covalent compounds are poor conductors of heat while metals are excellent conductors of heat.

Why are Covalent Compounds Bad Conductors of Heat?

Here again, are two reasons.

Firstly, covalent bonds sufficiently hold the atoms together. This means that there is very little to no free movement of electrons, which is what carries the heat energy throughout a material. As a result, there is very little movement of the electrons within the material and heat energy cannot be transferred quickly enough to allow for efficient conduction.

Secondly, covalent compounds bond don’t break down when heated. This means that there will be no dissipation of heating energy through vibration or thermal expansion, and the heat will be concentrated in one area. This can cause the material to overheat and potentially damage or destroy it.

Poor Conductor of Heat

Heat is a form of energy, and in covalent compounds its shared electrons are stuck in the middle of the molecules rather than being able to move around. This prevents the heat from being able to move as freely as it would in other compounds, making covalent compounds poor conductors of heat.

This is why, for example, metal pots and pans are better at conducting heat than ceramic ones – the metal has more free electrons that can carry the heat away.


There are many examples of covalent compounds that are bad conductors of heat.

Water is a prime example; it has a very high specific heat capacity, meaning that it takes a lot of energy to raise its temperature totally unlike metals that heat up quickly. This is due to the strong bonds between the water molecules; it takes a lot of energy to break those bonds, so water doesn’t conduct heat very well.

Other examples of covalent compounds that are bad conductors of heat include oils and waxes that take a lot of energy to heat up. These materials are also made up of molecules with strong bonds, so they don’t transfer heat well.

Moving further, during the cooking process, you add water and a pinch of salt. Water is a covalent compound but so is table salt.

You do notice, that when you add something like salt or sugar to your food it will take more time for the heat from your stove to spread through it and cook it properly.

However, while these types of compounds may be useful to us, they can also be bad conductors of heat because their molecules don’t move around very much.

On the other hand, ionic compounds are great conductors of heat because their molecules move around a lot more. This is why salt and sugar dissolve so quickly in water – their ions quickly move around and spread the heat evenly. So if you’re looking to cook your food quickly, it’s best to use an ionic compound like salt or sugar.

Why Covalent Graphite is a good conductor of heat?

Graphite is a good conductor of heat because of its unique atomic structure. Unlike other materials, graphite is composed of layers of atoms that are held together by weak forces. This allows the layers to slip easily past one another, which in turn makes it easier for thermal energy to move through the material.

Image of unique atomic structure makes excellent conductor (Source)

As a result, graphite is an excellent conductor of heat and is often used in applications where thermal management is critical. In addition to being a good conductor of heat, graphite is also an excellent conductor of electricity. This makes it a versatile material that can be used in a wide variety of applications, from batteries to electrical circuits.

Pi electrons in Graphite

pi-electrons in graphite are responsible for its exceptional electrical and thermal conductivity, as well as its unique optical properties. Each carbon atom in graphite is bonded to three other atoms in a hexagonal lattice.

The electrons in the outermost orbital of each carbon atom are free to move through the lattice, enabling them to carry electrical current.

The thermal conductivity of graphite is also due to the mobility of the pi-electrons. When heat is applied, the electrons absorb the energy and begin to vibrate. These vibrations then cause the electrons to collide with other atoms in the lattice, transferring heat throughout the material.

The pi-electrons in graphite also give rise to its distinctive optical properties. When light strikes the surface of graphite, the pi-electrons absorb some of the photons and re-emit them at a lower energy level. This gives graphite its unique metallic luster.

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