loading page

Full-field modeling of heat transfer in asteroid regolith: Radiative thermal conductivity of polydisperse particulates
  • +1
  • Andrew Ryan,
  • Daniel Pino Muñoz,
  • Marc Bernacki,
  • Marco Delbo
Andrew Ryan
University of Arizona

Corresponding Author:ajryan@orex.lpl.arizona.edu

Author Profile
Daniel Pino Muñoz
Mines ParisTech, PSL Research University, CEMEF
Author Profile
Marc Bernacki
Mines ParisTech, PSL Research University, CEMEF
Author Profile
Marco Delbo
Université Côte d’Azur, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, CNRS, Laboratoire Lagrange
Author Profile


Characterizing the surface material of an asteroid is important for understanding its geology and for informing mission decisions, such as the selection of a sample site. Diurnal surface temperature amplitudes are directly related to the thermal properties of the materials on the surface. We describe a numerical model for studying the thermal conductivity of particulate regolith in vacuum. Heat diffusion and surface-to-surface radiation calculations are performed using the finite element (FE) method in three-dimensional meshed geometries of randomly packed spherical particles. We validate the model for test cases where the total solid and radiative conductivity values of particulates with monodisperse particle size frequency distributions (SFDs) are determined at steady-state thermal conditions. Then, we use the model to study the bulk radiative thermal conductivity of particulates with polydisperse, cumulative power-law particle SFDs. We show that for each polydisperse particulate geometry tested, there is a corresponding monodisperse geometry with some effective particle diameter that has an identical radiative thermal conductivity. These effective diameters are found to correspond very well to the Sauter mean particle diameter, which is essentially the surface-area–weighted mean. Next, we show that the thermal conductivity of the particle material can have an important effect on the radiative component of the thermal conductivity of particulates, especially if the particle material conductivity is very low or the spheres are relatively large, owing to non-isothermality in each particle. We provide an empirical correlation to predict the effects of non-isothermality on radiative thermal conductivity in both monodisperse and polydisperse particulates.
Feb 2020Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets volume 125 issue 2. 10.1029/2019JE006100