This work presents a cell model for predicting the thermal conductivity of nanofluids. Effects due to the high specific surface area of the mono-dispersed nanoparticles and the micro-convective heat transfer enhancement associated with the Brownian motion of particles are addressed in detail. Novelty of the paper lies in its prediction of the non-linear dependence of thermal conductivity of nanofluids on particle volume fraction at low particle concentrations. The model is found to correctly predict the trends observed in experimental data over a wide range of particle sizes, temperatures and particle concentrations. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.