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Which Color Absorbs the Most Heat?

based on 36 ratings
Author: Michelle Formoso

Problem:

Do some colors absorb more heat than others?

If you put a bunch of pieces of the same kind of paper out in the sun at the same time, they should all get equally warm, right? Let's find out! 

Materials

  • Sunny day
  • Five pieces of construction paper in different colors: white, red, green, blue, and black
  • Tape
  • Five thermometers
  • Timer or clock or watch with alarm
  • Piece of lined or graph paper and a pencil

Procedure

  1. Fold each piece of construction paper in half the long way.
  2. Tape the long end and one short end completely shut so that the pieces of paper make skinny pockets.
  3. Make a graph on a sheet of lined paper. Along the left, make a column listing the construction paper by color (white, red, green, blue, black). Along the top, make a row of numbered column headings, 0-10.
  4. Make sure all of the thermometers read the same temperature and write this starting temperature in the “0” column next to each color on your table.
  5. Put one thermometer inside each pocket. Then take everything outside and set the pockets down next to each other in the sun.
  6. Every 10 minutes, peek at each thermometer and write down the temperature on your chart. Do this 10 times.
  7. Now look at your observations. Did all of the thermometers heat up at the same pace, or did some heat up faster and others slower? Did they end up being the same temperature at the end, or different temperatures?

Results

Different colors reflect and absorb the sun’s energy differently. Dark colors absorb more radiated heat from the sunlight while lighter colors reflect it. That's why wearing a black shirt on a sunny day makes you feel so much hotter than when you're wearing a white shirt!

Terms/Concepts: absorption, reflection, solar radiation

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