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Aim: To investigate how surface area and volume of an animal affects
the amount of heat lost.
Planning a simple procedure
One standard test tube, one boiling test tube, and one centrifuge test
tube will be filled with water at 40°C. A thermometer will be placed
in each tube to measure the decrease in temperature of the water. This
will be timed for 300 seconds using a stopwatch. The temperature of
the water will be recorded every 30 seconds.
A prior experiment similar to the one outlined above, was carried out
to determine the sizes of the test tubes. The surface area and volume
for each tube used were
§ Standard Test tube Surface area = 2.69 cm2
Volume = 18 cm3
§ Boiling Test tube Surface area = 5.73 cm2
Volume = 44.66 cm3
§ Centrifuge Test tube Surface area = 2.26 cm2
Volume = 14.58 cm3
The surface areas to volume ratio are as follows:
§ Standard test tube 1:6.69
§ Boiling test tube 1:7.79
§ Centrifuge test tube 1:6.45
The experiment determined which tubes should be used, and the amount
of water to be used.
Standard Test tube
Boiling test tube
Centrifuge test tube
Test tube rack
Thermometers x 3
Kettle containing water
1. 8.9 cm³ of water will be measured using a measuring cylinder.
2. The water will be heated to 40°C using a kettle.
3. When the water reaches 40°C it will be poured into a test tube.
4. A thermometer will be placed in the test tube to measure the amount
of heat lost.
5. A stopwatch will be used. The temperature of the water will be
recorded every 30 seconds, hence there will be 20 readings.
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"Demonstrating How Surface Area and Volume Affect Heat Loss in Animals." 123HelpMe.com. 23 Mar 2019
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7. Steps 1-6 will be repeated for a boiling test tube and a centrifuge
test tube. The amount of water poured into the boiling test tube will
be 24.9 cm³. The amount of water poured into the centrifuge test tube
will be 6.6cm³.
In this experiment there should be only one variable, which is
altered. In this investigation it is the size of the test tube that
will be altered. Three different sized test tubes will be used to
represent three different sized animals. A boiling test tube, standard
test tube and centrifuge test tube will be used. In order to keep the
other variables constant and to ensure the experiment as precise and
reliable as possible the following will be done:
1. Measuring cylinders will be used to measure the exact amount of
water. When measuring out the water the readings will be taken
from the meniscus as shown below
The volume of the solution will be measured from where the meniscus of
the solution is, and not as shown to the right
2. The same observer will observe the amount of heat loss, by
reading the values off the thermometer.
3. A stopwatch will be used to time the investigation.
4. The temperature of the surrounding environment is a factor, which
may affect the experiment. The tubes must be placed in the same
5. The volume of water will be constant in proportion to the volume
and surface area.
6. The whole experiment will be repeated and the results will be
recorded into a table. From the two recordings of the amount of
heat loss measured in 300 seconds for the reaction to occur, an
average will be calculated.
Whilst heating the water, care has to be taken to when handling the
kettle and pouring the water into the tubes as the water will be
extremely hot and may cause burns/scorns to the skin.
Heat can be transferred in three ways
Conduction is the transfer of heat energy from a source to a substance
without the substance itself moving. It occurs mainly in solids.
Metals are good conductors of heat, as the electrons are very loosely
attached to atoms and are easily removed from them. When a metal is
heated the 'free electrons' gain kinetic energy. They drift towards
the cooler parts of the metal thus spreading the energy to those
regions. In substances where no free electrons are present, the heat
energy is transferred from one place to another by collisions. Hence
the substance becomes warmer.
Convection is the transfer of heat energy from a source to a substance
by the movement of the substance itself, which occurs in fluids. Heat
is carried from one place to another, by the movement of the
Radiation is the transfer of heat energy from one place to another by
means of electromagnet waves. Radiation does not need a material in
order for it to take place. Radiation can travel through a vacuum as
in the case of heat from the sun reaching the Earth and warming it
enabling life to exist. The rate at which an object radiates heat
depends on a number of factors. These factors include
1. The temperature of an object being heated
2. The type of surface of those objects
3. The temperature of the surrounding environment
The sun transfers heat energy to animals by the third method of heat
transfer as described above. Large animals have the ability to retain
heat more easily than smaller animals. This is because as an animal
increases in size, there is proportionately less skin area exposed
relative to their total body mass and therefore, less heat loss
through the skin (via pores) to the environment. This is called
surface area to volume ratio. Smaller animals have a larger surface
area to volume ratio.
The surface area to volume ratio of an object is its surface area
relative to its volume. The larger an animal, the smaller its surface
area to volume ratio. Small animals have a large surface area to
volume ratio lose and gain heat more quickly than a larger animal with
a small surface area to volume ratio. This is important in temperature
I predict from the above scientific knowledge that the centrifuge test
tube will loose the most heat and the boiling test tube will loose the
least heat in a given time. This is because the centrifuge test tube
is the smallest and has the largest surface area to volume ratio it
will loose heat more quickly compared to the boiling test tube. This
is because the boiling test tube has the largest test tube and has a
smaller surface area to volume ratio, so it will loose the least
amount of heat as there is less surface area exposed relative to the
The table shows the decrease in temperature of heated water contained
in different sized test tubes in 300 seconds
Boiling test tube /°C (largest)
Standard Test tube/°C
Centrifuge test tube/°C (smallest)
Analysingand Considering Evidence
From the results table and graph the following trends and pattern can
be identified: the temperature of the water dropped by 1°C or 1.5°C
every 30 seconds. It can be seen that at around 60°C all the test
tubes were approximately at the same temperature, which was 38-38.5°C.
The graph showed a gradual decrease in temperature of the water
contained in all of the tubes. The water contained in the boiling test
tube demonstrated a decrease of 5°C in temperature, the standard test
tube demonstrated a decrease of 8°C in temperature, and the centrifuge
test tube demonstrated a decrease in 10°C. Hence the centrifuge test
tube demonstrated the largest decrease in temperature where as the
boiling test tube demonstrated the smallest decrease.
In conclusion the test tube with the greatest surface area to volume
ratio (centrifuge test tube) lost the most heat. It was predicted that
the centrifuge test tube, which has the largest surface area to volume
ratio, will loose the most heat and the boiling test tube, which has
the smallest surface area to volume ratio, will loose the least amount
From the results obtained in the investigation it can be seen that the
prediction was proven correct. The centrifuge test tube lost the most
heat (shown by a greater decrease in temperature of the water) because
it had the largest surface area to volume ratio. The centrifuge test
tube has a larger surface area in relation to its volume through which
the heat of the water contained could escape. Therefore the water
cooled down the most as the heat was radiated to the surroundings. The
boiling test tube has a smaller surface area in relation to its volume
through which little heat of the water contained could escape.
Therefore it took longer for the water to cool down and less heat was
radiated to the surroundings. These findings can be applied to animals
and the amount of heat lost by them relative to their surface area and
volume. A camel has a small surface area in relation to the volume and
therefore has the ability to retain heat more easily than smaller
animals. As the camel looses less heat it can tolerate changes in
temperature and cope in the cold temperature at night. A mouse has a
large surface area in relation to the volume and therefore can loose
more heat in order to keep cool. The heat is then radiated to the
surroundings. From the two examples given it can be seen that the
surface area and volume of an animal plays an important part in
The experiment was successful, the method used and the measurements
obtained were accurate and reliable as the prediction was proven
correct. A second reading was not taken as the results obtained were
accurate and followed a pattern. There were no anomalous results. The
method was suitable but to further improve the results of the
experiment a number of steps could have been taken
1. A digital thermometer could be used as it would reduce human error
and give more accurate results.
2. Using a digital stopwatch to time the investigation, as this would
give a more accurate time and results
3. Cling film could be placed over the test tube to reduce the amount
of heat loss and make it all more applicable to animals as animals are
closed systems as opposed to having extremely large openings.
The results were reliable, as the prediction was proven correct and it
was fair test by using the same observer to observe the amount of heat
lost, using a stopwatch, and measuring the amount of water accurately
and placing the test tubes in the same environment, however the steps
above (1-3) could have produced an even more accurate result.
Further study, which would help support the conclusion, could involve
investigating how the size and shape of an animal affects the amount
of heat loss. It could also be investigated whether the sizes or shape
of an animal was the most important factor in determining the amount
of heat lost.