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What is Emissivity? Emissivity of Various Coatings

A discussion started in 2000 but continuing through 2020


Q. I am looking for any information on "emissivity" or heat radiation properties of anodized aluminum. What is it and how can it be kept constant from load to load. A potential customer has told me that a difference of 0.2 can occur from load to load and this is too much of a difference. She needs assurance that this will not happen, but I can't do this if I'm not even familiar with the term.

Erin Lewis
anodizing - Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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Infrared Thermometer


A. Emissivity, generally indicated by Greek letter epsilon, and ranging from 0 to 1, is the ability of a body to receive or transmit heat power as infrared radiant energy.

The radiant power emitted by a body is proportional to its temperature to the fourth. An ideal "black" body has an emissivity = 1. For the real bodies the emissivity depends to a large extent on the surface finishing. For specular surfaces, emissivity can be as low as 0.03, for rough surfaces over 0.8.

Typically, emissivity of black anodised aluminum is 0.85.

Emissivity can be measured by means of suitable instrumentation.

Basics on the topic of power radiation can be found in every book of heat transmission; a lot of data can be found in many handbooks, e.g., edited by NASA or ESA.

pasquale cirese
- campi bisenzio - Italy


A. Just a correction in the term "transmit" used by Pasquale. Transmit means a wave, e.g., IR, passing through without absorption, like in light transmitting through a glass. Then there is reflectivity. Most relatively smooth metal surfaces tend to reflect a substantial portion of the IR radiation. The ideal Black Body with emissivity of 1 absorbs all heat received and emits all of it. No transmission and no reflection (unless my fundamentals are questionable).

Mandar Sunthankar
- Fort Collins, Colorado


Q. I'm trying to track down emissivity data for some finishes. My most urgent need is to find the emissivity for chromate finish aluminum MIL-C-5541 class 1A. Does anybody know it? Does anyone know a good reference for properties of other coatings ?

Peter Kostka
- Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Ed. note: See some numbers offered by Bob Knapp, below.


A. Peter, Here is a procedure to determine the emissivity of any substrate... You will need an infrared temperature gun that has adjustable emissivity and a touch type temperature sensor.

Take a chromated piece and check the temperature with both the touch gage and the IR gage. Adjust the emissivity on the IR gage until the temperature reads the same as the touch gage.

When the same temperature is reached, make note of the emissivity. This procedure assumes that the touch gage is correct. Hope this helps. Kelly

Kelly Draper
- West Plains, Missouri

Emissivity of chromate conversion coated aluminum


Q. Mathematical modeling of equipment enclosures is fast becoming a necessity if the professional Engineer wants to investigate Thermal Capacity of Equipment Enclosures. My particular question relates to the EMISSIVITY of ALOCROM. Various coatings can effect the amount of radiated heat from a housing. Various publications give figures as indicated below :

Polished Aluminium - 0.06,

Iridited Aluminium - 0.07,

Anodized Aluminium 0.81,

Aluminium Oxide - 0.33, etc.

However, I have been unable to find any figures relating to ALOCROM.

Can you please help?


September 11, 2009

Q. Have you managed to find this data? I am looking for the same information.

Richard Bennett
UK Astronomy Technology Centre - Edinburgh, U.K.

September 11, 2009

A. Hi. Alocrom is a Henkel trade name for chromate conversion coating of aluminum per MIL-DTL-5541 (to my understanding, they use the Alocrom name in Europe whereas they use the Alodine name here). Iridite is a Macdermid trade name for an equivalent chromate conversion coating of aluminum. So, they are on the same approved products lists, are for the same purpose, and should have equivalent emissivity.

But a small complication is that Alocrom, Alodine and Iridite are trade names for a range of such processes, not a single process. For precision I think it will prove necessary to specify a specific Alocrom like Alocrom 1200. Henkel may have this data.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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"Practical Temperature Measurement"
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Q. Given a blackbody radiant cure zone for a paint finishing oven, if there is an area with clear metal (i.e., high "e" coating has been removed) will the (heated) surface / skin temperature be greater than surrounding area?

Cindy Dilworth
industrial / process air handling - Detroit, Michigan

A. Hi Cindy. Because most metals are highly conductive, I don't think a significant temperature difference would persist for more than a few seconds -- so I doubt that it's a real issue. But if it is, it involves quite a bit of calculation based on the absorptivity of the bare & coated areas at the temperature of the infrared source, the emissivity of the bare & coated surfaces at the baking temperature, and the thickness & thermal conductivity of the metal in question :-)


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Black Plating to give an Emissivity of .80 or higher


We are currently using a stainless steel pipe section in a machine and would like for the finish to be black. I'm not a plating guru as I usually specify the basics like black oxide, nickel, zinc, hard anodizing, etc. and am looking for help to determine what the best solution is to our situation.

For cooling (heat transfer) purposes we would like to make this stainless steel pipe a "black body". Our analysts say we need a material with an emissivity of above .80 or preferably .85 to perform this task. Any ideas? We're looking for low cost as this section is very long and if it works we could be producing thousands of this component.

We've also considered switching the pipe material to carbon steel, but the plating would have to protect the pipe from a corrosive atmosphere. Any low cost plating options for carbon steel would be appreciated as well.


Brett Blanchard
Government - Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA


A. Black chrome and nickel plating is the first choice for low emissivity, so plating is probably unsuited for what you want. Black oxide on stainless steel is probably "good", but perhaps not 0.8 or higher. Rough surfaces are much better than polished surfaces. How about paint?

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Perhaps, black zinc chromate? I'm a bit out of my area of expertise, but I've seen a lot of it done, and the coating looks pretty 'flat' to me.

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York


Q. Has anyone tested for the emissivity of black oxide or passivation of stainless steel? I have one data point from a local plating company which stated an emissivity of .72, which is less than desired. However, I have a text book which states .87 for "stably" oxidized stainless steel ... Does anyone else have input?


Brett Blanchard [returning]
- Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA

Infrared Camera for Smartphone

January 22, 2010

A. You can measure emissivity to a fairly high level of accuracy with an infrared camera such as those manufactured by FLIR. Search for the term "emissivity" on Youtube to learn more.

David Brown
infrared training - Billerica, Massachusetts

January 3, 2013

Q. Does anyone have an information on emissivity of E-coat?

zin dolgonosov
Zin Dolgonosov
- Fremont, California, USA

Heat transfer by radiation

February 7, 2020

Q. Which finish is better for heat emissivity in electronic housings, Powder coating or anodizing? What are their particular emissivity values?

Kuljeet Singh
Engineering design - India

February 2020

A. Hi Kuljeet. Anodized aluminum is pretty high: 0.80-0.86 per this page and other threads on finishing.com. The emissivity of most powder coatings is probably a little higher, with some approaching 1, but others as low as 0.5 when so designed.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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