We investigate the decay property of a Timoshenko system of thermoelasticity in the whole space for both Fourier and Cattaneo laws of heat conduction. We point out that although the paradox of infinite propagation speed inherent in the Fourier law is removed by changing to the Cattaneo law, the latter always leads to a solution with the decay property of the regularity-loss type. The main tool used to prove our results is the energy method in the Fourier space together with some integral estimates. We derive L 2 decay estimates of solutions and observe that for the Fourier law the decay structure of solutions is of the regularity-loss type if the wave speeds of the first and the second equations in the system are different. For the Cattaneo law, decay property of the regularity-loss type occurs no matter what the wave speeds are. In addition, by restricting the initial data to U 0∈H s(R)∩L 1,γ(R) with a suitably large s and γ ∈ [0,1], we can derive faster decay estimates with the decay rate improvement by a factor of t -γ/2. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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