Science Project:

This Little Light of Mine

3.3 based on 12 ratings
Difficulty of Project

Medium

Cost

Less than $10

Safety Issues

Be careful when lighting candles! Flammable warning! Make sure to be supervised by an adult. Children should not do this experiment. Make sure that nothing is around the candles before lighting them up!

Material Availability

Yes

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

The main experiment can be completed in one day or separate days if you find that convenient. Research and write-up times vary among individuals.

Students will investigate whether the color of the candles matter in burn duration and whether 2 candles of identical mass and weight but different dimensions (one is tall/thin; but the other is fat/short) differ in burn times.

To shed some “light” on which color of candles burn the longest and whether it matters and also whether candle dimensions/type (taper and pillar) matters in burn times.

A selection of candles of the same mass/weight, but different dimensions (Try to compare taper, pillar,gel, etc.) and the a set of candles in the exact same dimensions and mass, but different colors (it is recommended that you choose the colors of the spectrum.)

  • Lighter/matches
  • A scale to weigh the candles
  • Ruler
  • Calculator
  • Timer
  • Pen/Paper
  • A keen mind
A selection of candles can be found in drug stores as well as in craft stores. A basic scale can also be found at the drug store, hardware store, or any science supply store. The other materials can also be obtained at your local drugstore.

Candles are one of the earliest forms of illumination. They were used by the ancient Romans and Egyptians even before 3,000 BC. The materials they are made from as well as their burn times have evolved and been much improved over the years. Many candles use candle dyes to tint them to the desired color.

Candles weren't only used for illumination, they were also used to keep time. Early forms of timekeeping involved markings along the sides of the candle and similar methods.

Research Questions
  • What are candles made of?
  • What are the parts of the candle? How does it work?
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research
Combustion, heat, light, paraffin, beeswax, candle dye

NOTE: Again, make sure that NOTHING is around the burning candles and it is HIGHLY recommended that you do not keep the candle unattended. It is advisable that the candle be placed on a steel or non-flammable surface.

  1. If the candles you obtained do not have their weights on the label, then weigh them to make sure they are are the same mass and weight. Record the measurements and weights. Once you have done this, you may proceed. We will be testing 2 variables- color and dimensions in this experiment.
  2. If you are not experienced, then have an adult handle the candle-lighting. We will test candle color first. Line up your chosen colors at least 3 inches apart from each other and lightthem. Start timing.
  3. We will burn these candles for 4 hours and use a mathematical formula to figure out their total burn time. We will not be burning candles for the whole duration as that is time-consuming and less safe. However, measure/monitor the candles in hourly intervals for 4 hours.
  4. After 4 hours is up for the color test, record the appearance and measurements of the candles in the chart provided below. If any changes in measurements occurred, rank them according tolength. Blow out and let them cool down.
  5. We will now proceed with the second test. Place a new pillar and taper candle of the same mass and weight 3 inches apart from each other and light them up. We will time this for another 4hours. Repeat step 3 for this set of candles.
  6. Once again, record your findings for this particular test. Let the candles cool after blowing out.
  7. Weigh each candle once more after they have cooled. Record this number.
  8. Use the mathematical formula stated below to find the total burn time for all the candles.
  9. Evaluate your results.

Mathematical Formula

Amount consumed after burning (Original weight. - After Burning wt.) ÷ Hours Burnt = Hourly Burn Rate Original wt. (minus wt. of container if used) ÷ Hourly Burn Rate = Approximate Burn Time

Test #1 Color Test
Candle Color
Original Weight
Original Height
After-Burn Weight
After-Burn Height
Notes
Example: Red
Test #2 Dimension Test
Candle Type
Original Weight
Original Height
After-Burn Weight
After-Burn Height
Notes
Example: Tall Taper

"Characterization of Candle Flames", by Anthony Hamins, Matthew Bundy and Scott E. Dillon. Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, Vol. 15, November 2005. DOI: 10.1177/1042391505053163, http://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/fire05/PDF/f05141.pdf

Whitrow, G. J. (1989). Time in History: Views of Time from Prehistory to the Present Day

Oxford University Press. pp.90–91. ISBN 0192852116. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=o8Nb5KLBxVQC&pg=PA91&dq=Sung+dynasty+incense+clocks&client=firefox-a&sig=-Q0S71dCqYmsWIrlTuW_vaBWt3s#PPA91,M1

http://www.100candles.com/

Author: Jennifer Penn-Chiu
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