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Best Insulators

based on 23 ratings
Author: Melissa Bautista

Grade Level: 3rd - 5th; Type: Physical Science

Objective:

This project will examine which type of insulation holds in the most heat. We will compare the effectiveness of styrofoam coolers, traditional coolers, and insulated bags.  

Research Questions:

Which material holds in the most heat for a given time period?

When we produce energy through electricity, the sun, our own bodies, or gas we are producing heat. Heat can be stored in the form of insulation. Insulation prevents heat from escaping an object. Insulated coffee mugs are designed to hold in heat unlike paper cups. You can hold a hot cup of coffee in an insulated mug with your bare hands but if you hold a hot cup of coffee in a paper cup you could potentially burn yourself. Why does this happen? In this experiment we will demonstrate how heat is conserved. By testing different forms of insulation we can determine which material hold in the most heat over time.

Materials:

  • Styrofoam cooler
  • Cooler
  • Insulated bag (Found in the freezer section in grocery stores) *All three containers should be about the same volume.
  • 3 empty 1-pint plastic water bottles (All three should be the same)
  • Thermometer/temperature probe 

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Heat 6 cups of tap water using a teakettle or microwave to a temperature of around 80°F. Use your thermometer to check the temperature periodically. If using a microwave be sure the container is microwave safe. Do not heat over 80°F because the plastic water bottle may melt.
  2. Carefully pour 2 cups of hot water into each bottle.
  3. Take the temperature of each bottle and immediately cap.
  4. Place a water bottle into the styrofoam cooler, traditional cooler, and insulated bag. Make sure each container is sealed.
  5. Wait 30 min. Open each container one by one and take the temperature of each bottle and record using the chart below****. Once temperature is recorded immediately cap and place the bottle back into its container.
  6. Wait another 30 min. and repeat step 5.
  7. Continue to test every 30 minutes until the water temperature reaches room temperature.
  8. Chart and graph the change in temperature over time (Figure 1 & 2).
 
Time
Styrofoam
Cooler
Bag
1:00
80
80
80
1:30
78
77
76
2:00
75
75
74
2:30
72
74
70
3:00
68
72
68
3:30
66
71
60
4:00
63
68
55
 

 

Figure 1. Chart of temperature changes over time for each insulator.

 
 
 

Figure 2. Graph of temperature changes over time for each insulator. 

 

Terms/Concepts: Thermodynamics; Insulation; Conduction;  How do insulators hold in heat?; What types of material hold in heat?

References:

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