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Heat energy transfers between a solid and a fluid when there is a temperature difference between the fluid and the solid. This is known as "convection heat transfer". Generally, convection heat transfer can not be ignored when there is a significant fluid motion around the solid.

The temperature of the solid due to an external field such as fluid buoyancy can induce a fluid motion. This is known as "natural convection" and it is a strong function of the temperature difference between the solid and the fluid. Blowing air over the solid by using external devices such as fans and pumps can also generate a fluid motion. This is known as "forced convection".

Fluid mechanics plays a major role in determining convection heat transfer. For each kind of convection heat transfer, the fluid flow can be either laminar or turbulent. Laminar flow generally occurs in relatively low velocities in a smooth laminar boundary layer over smooth small objects, while turbulent flow forms when the boundary layer is shedding or breaking due to higher velocities or rough geometries.