Experiment: Which Materials Conduct Heat Best?

Principal Investigator: Celeste
Research Assistant: Jeffrey
Date: March 18, 2007

Over the weekend we picked up a Ein-O Science Kit at a local game store. On Sunday we did one of the experiments in the box. The Ein-O kits are pretty neat; they have instructions on how to do the experiment along with most of the materials you need.

Our Ein-O kit has four experiments, all having to do with heat. Our experiment demonstrated how different kinds of materials conduct heat. A conductor is a material that energy can pass through. So our experiment tried to show how heat travels through different kinds of materials.

In the experiment, we got a ceramic bowl from our kitchen and attached four types of material to the inside of the bowl. The kinds of material were: a wooden pencil, a plastic tube, a plastic ruler, and a metal spoon. All of the materials except for the metal spoon were included in the Ein-O kit.

Heat-Conducting Materials Experiment: Materials

To stick the materials to the inside of the bowl, we used bits of modeling clay, which was also included in the kit.

Heat-Conducting Materials Experiment: Materials in Bowl

The kit also included some plastic marker discs that we stuck onto the materials with some butter. The idea is that the warm water in the bowl would travel up the materials and melt the butter, causing the plastic markers to slide off the materials. The materials that were better heat conductors would melt the butter more quickly.

Heat-Conducting Materials Experiment: Butter and Markers

After the materials were stuck to the inside of the bowl, we filled the bowl with warm water. It took us a few trials to figure out how much water to use and how warm we needed to get it. In our first trial, we heated 500 milliliters of water for 120 seconds, which made the water pretty hot. This turned the modeling clay to sticky goo after we poured it into the bowl. We noticed that if the modeling clay got too hot, it was too soft to hold the spoon onto the side of the bowl and the spoon would fall over. In our final successful trial, we used 400 milliliters of tap water warmed in the microwave for about 75 seconds.

Heat-Conducting Materials Experiment: Failed Trial

We also had to make sure not to let the warm water touch the modeling clay. We did this by moving the modeling clay up to the rim of the bowl in our third trial. There was one last problem, though. In the third trial, we placed the markers too high, and the heat wasn’t strong enough to travel up the materials to melt the butter and move the markers.

During all the trials Celeste wrote down the time that we started and finished. During the third trial we waited about twenty minutes for something to happen, but because the markers were so high, nothing ever happened. During the third trial Celeste spent much of her time drawing pictures of princesses in her research notebook.

Finally, in the fourth trial, we moved the markers down so they were closer to the water. This time we were able to figure out from our experiment that the metal spoon conducted heat much more quickly than the wood or plastic. The marker slid off the spoon about three minutes after we poured the warm water into the bowl.

Heat-Conducting Materials Experiment: Success!

We don’t know exactly how long it took the butter to melt, because at the time the marker slid off the spoon, we were downstairs helping Mom unload groceries from the car. But we know that the spoon conducted heat the best because when we got back upstairs, none of the other markers had moved.

We’ve posted more photos of this experiment over on Flickr.

17 thoughts on “Experiment: Which Materials Conduct Heat Best?

  1. Alice

    So what was the best conductor…. I am a Gr. 6 student wanting to know what conducts heat other than metal!!! No where it say what these materials are!!! Please can you tell me or atleast tell the rest of the internet!!

    Sorry If I was being a bit rude! :)

  2. Miranda

    I’m very interested in your science experiment report and would like to use it in our schools. I’d love to have children look at your experiment, read your notes, and create their own experiment based on your findings and experiences. Would it be possible to get a word document of the experiment? Would it be alright with you to use your experiment for our educational purposes. It looks like you guys had a lot of fun! Love the pink cap!:)

  3. jeffrey Post author

    Hi Miranda, you should feel free to use the material from our site in your classroom. We don’t have it Word format — hopefully you can do something with copy/paste? Barring that I’ll figure out a way to make this more easily printable if that’s what you’re looking to do.

  4. jeffrey Post author

    OK, we’ve added a “Print This Post” link to the very bottom of the page, hopefully this will help you share with your class.

  5. Miranda

    Thank you so much! I just wanted to check to make sure you were comfortable with it before using your meticulous notes :) ! This will be a great learning experience for the third graders in Wethersfield!

    It will be great to print it b/c of the ads on the Blog.

    Thanks again!

  6. bonitaa

    Heyy;Im In The 9th; And Im Doing A Science Fair Project;And My Topic Is Which Metals Conduct Heat The Best;Now My Question Is In Order To Find Out The Better Heat Conductor Just Put the Metals In Water.???

  7. jeffrey Post author

    Not quite; in addition to heating the metals in water, you need a way to determine which metals conducted heat best. Review our experiment again to see how we did this.

  8. Clover

    It says the materials at the begining “a wooden pencil, a plastic tube, a plastic ruler, and a metal spoon.” ALSO at the end it clearly stated that the metal spoon conducted better. Y’all need to learn how to read!!


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