Experiment objective

To discover heat conduction in materials

Read more background about this activity in Louis Taillefer's bio...

You need

  • A wooden spoon
  • A big metal spoon
  • A plastic spoon
  • A glass rod
  • Various kinds of metal rods or bars (brass, steel, silver, copper, aluminum, tin, etc.)
  • A pot of boiling water
  • Thermometer
  • Masking tape
  • A clock or stopwatch

Boil up some water in a large pot and bring it over to your test bench. For a quick test, place three items in the hot water, such as a plastic spoon, a glass rod, and a metal rod. Feel the parts that are sticking out of the water. Which one is getting hotter fastest?

For a more detailed experiment, fasten the thermometer to one end of the bar, rod or spoon with masking tape. Check the clock and write down the time. Put the non-thermometer end of the item into the boiling water. Every 15 seconds write down the temperature of the thermometer. Do this for at least three different materials, preferably more. Graph your results on a chart that plots temperature vs time. Which materials conduct heat best?

HINT: Use the search box at the top of this page to find out more about heat conduction of metals on the science.ca website. Try keywords like: heat conduct.