Heat Conduction

3.5 based on 12 ratings

Updated on Feb 06, 2012

Grade Level: 4th - 6th; Type: Physical Science

Students will examine which metal conducts more heat by boiling water in 3 pans made of aluminum, copper, and stainless steel.

  • What is the difference between thermal conductance and thermal resistivity?
  • Why are metals good conductors of heat and electricity?
  • Which metal conducts the greatest amount of heat? Why?
  • What are some pros and cons for the use of aluminum, copper, and stainless steel for cookware?

Metals are used in many of our everyday objects. Take a look around your house and notice how many objects are made out of or contain metal. The kitchen is full of different metals: aluminum foil, stainless steel sinks, silver spoons, and copper pans. Pots and pans used for cooking are good examples of the properties of metal. At room temperature metals are solid and sturdy with a high melting point so they can withstand high temperatures without melting. When metals are heated up to their melting points they become malleable, or shapeable. Pots and pans come in many shapes and sizes but have one purpose, to transfer heat from the stove to the contents inside. Metals have been used to manufacture cookware because of their ability to conduct heat. Since metals are also good conductors of electricity they are widely used in the production of electrical appliances. In this experiment students will learn how different metals conduct heat.

  • Aluminum, copper, & stainless steel cookware – all the same volume, i.e. 4 qt. saucepan
  • Water
  • Empty 2L bottles (2)
  • Measuring cup
  • Thermometer
  • Timer
  • Cooking range or hotplate

  1. Fill the 2L bottles with tap water. Set aside for 2 hours at room temperature.
  2. Measure 3 cups of water from a 2L bottle and pour into the first saucepan.
  3. Measure the water temperature with the thermometer. Leave the thermometer in the pan.
  4. Place the saucepan on a cool stovetop, set heat to medium and start the timer.
  5. When the temperature of the water reaches 120°F stop the timer and record the time.
  6. Repeat steps 2-5. Always use the water from the 2L bottles. Allow the stove to completely cool before each trial. For each metal perform at least 2 trials.

Trial 1

Trial 2

Metal

Initial H2O Temperature

Time to 120°F

Initial H2O Temperature

Time to 120°F

Aluminum

Copper

Stainless Steel

Terms/Concepts: Conductivity; Thermal conductance; Thermal resistivity; Heat transfer; Properties of metal – aluminum, stainless steel, copper

Melissa Bautista is a research scientist, freelance editor, and writer, with a focus in Neuroscience. She believes in establishing solid foundations in education through experience, creativity, and collaboration. She is fascinated by pedagogy and the concept of learning through living.

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