Observing Heat Transfer by Conduction Lab Activity

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Freebie Physical Science Lab Activities

Observing Heat Transfer by Conduction

The conduction of heat energy occurs mostly in solids and liquids where the atoms of a substance are touching one another. Heat transfer always occurs from a hot end of an object to the cooler end. When heat transfer occurs by conduction, the particles increase their rate of vibration which affects nearby particles, jostling them about and transferring the heat energy along the object.

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This lab will have three activities which you will need to complete and then record observations and/or data for each.

The three activities are:

  1. Exploring the thermal conductivity of hot water.
  2. Thermal conductivity using a balloon.
  3. Investigating the thermal conductivity of different metals.

Group Size: Pairs or groups of three

Time allowance: 30-40 mins

Observing Heat Transfer by Conduction Learning Objectives:

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe how heat transfers through objects by conduction.
  • Give examples of materials which are thermal conductors and insulators.

NGSS Standards Covered

  • MS-PS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
  • MS-PS3-4 Plan an investigation to determine the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass, and the change in the average kinetic energy of the particles as measured by the temperature of the sample.

I Can Statement

I can explain how heat energy is conducted along solids and through liquids, how insulators prevent heat transfer and provide examples of each.

Conduction Vocabulary

  • Bimetallic strip
  • Conduction
  • Conductor
  • Free electrons
  • Heat transfer
  • Insulator

Download These Lab Sheets for Your Students:

Observing Heat Transfer by Conduction Lab Materials:

Station 1: Conduction in SpoonsStation 2: Popping BalloonsStation 3: Hot Rods 
  • Heating mat.
  • Metal cooking pot filled with cold water.
  • Stick of butter or wax
  • Spoons of different materials e.g. wooden, metal and plastic.
  • Stopwatch
  • Bench mat
  • 2 latex balloons (uninflated)
  • A candle and matches.
  • Cold water source.
  • Bench mat
  • Bunsen burner
  • Wax
  • Metal thumb tacks
  • Rods made of different metals. E.g. Iron, steel, copper, aluminum
  • Stopwatch
  • Heat proof gloves or clamp stand.

Observing Heat Transfer by Conduction Lab Procedures:

Student Exploration Heat Transfer by Conduction

Method Station 1: Conduction in spoons

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  1. Write a hypothesis about which spoon will have melted butter/wax first in the space below:

Hypothesis:

 

 

  1. Place the pot of cold water on the heating mat and heat it until it begins to simmer.
  2. Place a small amount of butter or wax on the end of each spoon.
  3. Place each spoon, handle first into the water as shown in the diagram.
  4. Record your observations in the space below.

Space for observations:

 

 

Method Station 2: Popping Balloons

  1. Write a hypothesis about which balloon will pop the quickest in the space below:

Hypothesis:

 

 

  1. Light the candle
  2. Inflate the first balloon to a medium size with air and place directly over the flame.
  3. Fill the second balloon halfway with water and hold it over the lit candle.

Space for observations:

 

 

 

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Method Station 3: Hot Rods

  1. Write a hypothesis about which rod will lose all its tacks the fastest in the space below:

Hypothesis:

 

 

  1. Light the Bunsen and change to a blue heating flame.
  2. Place a layer of wax on the first metal rod and secure the thumb tacks to it as shown in the diagram.
  3. Using heat proof gloves or a clamp stand, hold the metal bar horizontally in the Bunsen flame and start the stopwatch.
  4. Record the length of time it takes for all the tacks to drop onto the bench.
  5. Repeat with other types of metal rods.
  6. Record your observations and times for each metal this activity in the spaces below.

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Space for observations and results:

 

 

 

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Observing Heat Transfer by Conduction Observations:

Student Exploration Heat Transfer by Conduction Pre-Lab Questions:

  1. Define the following terms:
    1. Thermal conductor
    2. Thermal insulator
  2. What state(s) of matter does conduction usually occur in?
  3. Give a reason for your answer to question 2.

Student Exploration Heat Transfer by Conduction Post-lab Questions:

  1. For activity 1 which spoon was the best conductor of heat? How could you tell?
  2. For activity 2:
    1. Which balloon popped first? Give a reason for your answer.
    2. Explain your observations for the balloon containing water.
  3. For activity 3:
    1. Using your results, order the metal rods from best to worst thermal conductor.
    2. Explain why the tacks fall off the metal rod when it is heated in relation to your findings.
    3. Describe what you would expect to observe, if instead you placed the Bunsen in the center of the rod, rather than at one end.
  4. The table below shows the thermal conductivity of several metals. Use it to answer the questions that follow.

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    1. Place these metals in order of most to least conductive.
    2. Do these results support the findings from your experiment using metals rods? Explain your answer.

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