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In this investigation I am trying to find out how the thickness of
insulation around a drink in a cup affects the time a drink takes to
cool down. I want to find out if insulation does affect the cooling
time of a drink and if so how.
I would like to produce an unbiased and fair set of results. I would
like to produce results that match my prediction and the scientific
theory behind them. I would like there to be an obvious trend in the
results and a pattern which can be easily be used to predict further
results when changing the thickness of the insulation. Preferably
there would be no anomalous figures. I aim to undertake a safe and
well-planned investigation after which I will be able to arrive at a
thorough and decisive conclusion.
I aim to do the right amount of experiments for there to be an
accurate result, not to do too many unnecessary ones. I will conduct
some preliminary experiments to decide on what measurements I will
take and also what range of thickness to use.
My overall aim is to perform a safe, well planned, precise and
conclusive investigation into how the quantity of insulation affects
the time it takes for a drink to cool down.
My prediction is that the more the thickness of the insulation is
increased the longer the drink will take to cool down. I also predict
that for every two layers added the temperature change will go down by
I do not predict that all of my results will follow a line of best fit
exactly as that would be very hard to achieve but they will probably
have a trend. There is a possibility of getting one or two anomalous
results but I hope that my results will follow a pattern.
Here is a graph of how I expect my results to look:
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"An Investigation Into How the Thickness of Insulation Affects the Time a Drink Takes to Cool Down." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Mar 2019
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The drink will lose its heat because of four occurrences; conduction,
convection, radiation and evaporation.
In the liquid convection will happen. This happens when a liquid is
heated up. When this occurs the particles within the liquid acquire
more energy and start to move around vigorously. The heated particles
become more spaced out; the distance between them expands. Because the
liquid has expanded, this means that it now has a larger volume. If we
apply this to the formula density = mass/volume we can see that the
warmer part of the liquid will now be less dense than the rest of the
liquid. This results in the 'less dense' liquid rising. The colder
liquid then replaces it and now there is a convection current; warmer,
less dense particles rise, then cool and fall back down again where
they become warmer etc.
The fact that there will be a convection current means that heat will
be spread around the cup. It will be conducted through the sides of
the cup and also it will evaporate on the surface of the liquid.
Evaporation is when, at temperatures below boiling point, individual
molecules approaching the surface with above-average speed (they are
warmer) may have enough energy to escape from the surface and pass
into the air as vapour. As only the fastest molecules evaporate, the
average speed of the remaining molecules is lowered. The temperature
of the liquid depends only on the average speed of the molecules.
Because the fastest molecules have evaporated, the average speed of
the molecules is decreased resulting in the temperature of the liquid
If a liquid evaporates in a closed vessel (if a lid was placed over
it), the space above the liquid would quickly become filled with
vapour. But evaporation would be balanced by the opposite process,
condensation. This way no heat would escape.
In non-metals conduction occurs when heated atoms vibrate and pass
energy on to each other. The energy is passed through the substance.
This is one way the liquid could lose heat, because the non-metal cup
and insulation would absorb some of the thermal energy, taking some of
it away from the liquid.
Heat will also escape by radiation. This is the transfer of energy by
electromagnetic waves. Energy will leave the cup and spread out around
it meaning the fluid will have less thermal energy.
If insulation is put round the cup this will reduce heat loss. Because
the cup and the insulation will be non-metal, the energy will be
transferred through them by hot particles vibrating. If more
insulation is added then the vibrations will have further to travel.
This will result in less energy reaching the end of the insulation to
convect through the air. This means less energy will be dispersed. If
the insulation is made of 'bubble-wrap', which mine will be, then it
will be a better insulator. This is because the trapped air inside the
'bubbles' stops convection currents and is a very good insulator.
I will use equipment that is suitable to make the most accurate
measurements and that will give me the best results.
I did some preliminary experiments to decide on what equipment to use
and how to carry out my experiment:
- Preliminary Experiments
Amount of Water -
To decide how much water to use (for the liquid in the cup) I did some
tests and I found that 50ml of water would be too small a quantity as
the thermometer did not fit well into it. If not much of the
thermometer is in the liquid then the temperature readings will be
less accurate. I decided 150ml would be better suited to the
experiment and would mean the thermometer would give a more accurate
Time Left to Cool (minutes)
Start Temperature (oC)
Finish Temperature (oC)
Start Temperature (oC)
Finish Temperature (oC)
Using or not using a lid will play a big part in my planning. If a lid
is used this will severely reduce heat loss as convection will not be
able to happen. Also evaporated water will just fall back into the
liquid. If a lid is not used then a lot of heat will be convected
through the air and hot water will evaporate and rise out of the cup.
I conducted an experiment to see if I should use a lid or not.
From these preliminary results I can see that too much heat is lost if
a lid is not used. Because so much heat is lost it would mean that the
amount of insulation used would not make much difference to the finish
temperature of the liquid. Therefore I have decided to use a lid, as
then I will know that nearly all of the heat lost will be lost through
the insulation. The measurements I take for heat loss through
different thicknesses of insulation will then be more accurate.
After conducting a few tests I found that increasing the thickness by
one layer each time did not result in a significant decrease in amount
of heat lost each time. This is why I have decided to increase the
insulation by two layers each time. Any more than that and too many
layers would be added to the cup, consequently the results would not
be as good as not much thermal energy would get through the
insulation. I will go from 0 to 10 layers in steps of two.
Start Temperature -
To find a good start temperature that would give quite a big change in
temperature after a certain amount of time I did an experiment, here
are my results:
Start Temperature of 90oC
Start Temperature of 70oC
Time Left to Cool (minutes)
Finish Temperature ( oC)
Finish Temperature (oC)
From these results I can see that 90oC would be a better temperature
to start at rather than 70oC. This is because there is a larger
temperature difference between the start and finish temperatures at 90oC.
This means it will be easier to see the difference in temperature when
I start adding more insulation layers. One problem though is that 90oC
is hard to get as after the water has been poured out it cools too
quickly and I cannot get set up quick enough. This is why I have
decided to use 85oC as my start temperature. I can get set up before
the temperature gets to 85oC and also the liquid will not be cooling
down as quickly.
Cooling Time -
I have found that 5 minutes would be the optimum time. After this the
temperature starts to decrease too slowly and any noticeable change is
I will be using a 150ml beaker for a cup. I am using this size because
there is plenty of surface area for heat to possibly escape and also
it will be easier to put insulation around it. I will need two beakers
as I will do each thickness of insulation twice, at the same time.
I will also need two thermometers, one for each beaker, to measure the
temperatures accurately. I will then know the start temperature and
the final temperature after 5 minutes.
The insulation I will be using is 'bubble wrap'. I will need 22 sheets
of this to use as insulation round the beaker and also 1 sheet for the
lid on each beaker.
I will need a kettle to boil my water, ready to place in the beakers
and start the experiment at 85oC.
I will also need 6 rubber bands to secure the insulation and the lids
In my investigation I will be measuring how quickly a beaker of water
cools down when it has different thickness' of insulation. I will have
six different thickness' of insulation (in layers of two): 0,2,4,6,8
and 10. I will perform two experiments for each thickness, this way my
results will be more accurate because I will be able to take an
I will record the start temperature and the finish temperature after 5
minutes. I will then work out the difference between them.
The variable in my investigation is the amount of layers insulating
the beaker. I will not change anything else that I tested in my
I cannot control the temperature of the room but hopefully it will
stay the same throughout my investigation. If the temperature does
change it will only be minimal.
Firstly I will wrap the appropriate amount of insulation around the
two beakers and secure it with two rubber bands. I will then pour in
excess of 300ml of water into the kettle and turn it on. Once it has
boiled I will immediately pour 150ml of water into each beaker and
quickly place a thermometer in each. Then I will fasten the two lids
in place with a rubber band and wait until the temperature of the
water reaches 85oC. When it does I will start the stop clock.
After 5 minutes the experiment will be over. I will record the final
temperature of the water and then work out the temperature difference
between it and 85oC.
When I have completed one experiment I will move onto the next.
By doing the same experiment twice I am making my results more
reliable. I will also be able to spot if there are any anomalous ones
and if there are any tests I need to repeat because, for an unknown
reason, they have not worked.
I will do everything the same for each of the experiments to make sure
it is a fair test. The only thing I will be changing is the amount of
The equipment I have chosen is to give me the most accurate results
and that is what I want to achieve.
To prevent any boiling water splashing in my face I will wear
I have now completed the experiments and I have put my results into a
Thickness of Insulation (layers)
Average Temperature Decrease (oC)
Start Temperature (oC)
Line of best fit
I do not think I will have to repeat any of my experiments as they all
appear to follow a trend, although at 8 and 10 layers I have the same
result. This could be because after 8 layers there is no difference in
the temperature decrease no matter how much insulation is applied. It
could also be because a mistake was made but looking at the results
previous to it it seems to follow a pattern. I would say the predicted
reading would be about 4.5oC or 5oC so 5.5oC is not too far out.
From my results I can see that as the amount of insulation increases
the temperature decrease of the water after 5 minutes becomes less
great. At 0 layers there was a 17.5oC decrease in temperature but when
10 layers were added there was only a 5.5oC decrease. This shows that
the amount of insulation does have an effect on the temperature of the
liquid it is surrounding.
My graph shows that as more layers are added the temperature decrease
does not change as much. To start with there is quite a sharp decline
in the temperature decrease of the liquid as layers of insulation
start to be added, but gradually it starts to slow down and the
difference between the temperature decrease at each 2 layers is not as
There is an obvious pattern to my results; as the amount of insulation
increases, the temperature decrease (in 5 minutes) lessens. The line
of best fit is not a straight line it is curved. This is because as
the amount of insulation is increased (by 2 layers) the 'temperature
decrease' does not go down as sharply and eventually it will appear to
be almost a straight line.
My results match my prediction and the scientific reason behind them.
There is a trend and it is easy to calculate a line of best fit.
My liquid lost heat because of conduction, convection, radiation and
evaporation. First of all the heated molecules in the water become
energised and move around quickly, they escape past the surface of the
water and evaporate into the air above. Once there the heated air
causes a convection current in the sealed container. This spreads the
heat around the container. Heat is then conducted through the edge of
the container and it makes its way through the insulation. The
insulation I used stops convection currents therefore it reduces heat
loss. Despite this heat still passes through by conduction until it
reaches the air and is convected away. Heat is also given-off by
electromagnetic radiation waves which are dispersed into the
atmosphere. There is a trend in my results because as more insulation
is added less and less heat energy passes out through the insulation,
instead it stays within the container or around the cup in the
insulation. The more insulation the less heat energy escapes.
The line of best fit on my predicted graph does not match the actual
one in my results. This is because I did not predict that the
temperature difference would go down by less each time. I thought that
there would be a steady decrease but what actually happened was the
gradient became less steep every recording. By the last experiment the
line is nearly horizontal. This tells me that as more insulation is
used the difference in the temperature decreases is more minimal.
I think I did do the right number of experiments for there to be an
accurate result; not too many unnecessary ones. Overall I believe I
did perform a safe, well planned, precise and conclusive investigation
into how the quantity of insulation affects the time it takes for a
drink to cool down.
Overall I think my results are reliable. None of them are anomalous
and they all follow a trend. They follow my prediction and scientific
reasoning. If there were a number of anomalous results then I would
question their reliability but as there are not I know that they are
reliable. They follow the line of best fit very well, slightly better
than I had predicted.
Because both of my two experiments, for each thickness of insulation,
got about the same recordings this suggests to me that they are
accurate and reliable and there will be no need to repeat any of them.
If I were performing my investigation again on another occasion I
would complete three experiments at each amount of insulation. This
would mean my results would be more accurate and it would be easier to
spot if I had made an error in the practical stage. Also my average
would be better because I would have three recordings instead of two.
When I was performing my experiments I did not have time to do three.
An additional way to improve my experiments would be to use a more
accurate temperature-measuring device. This would mean that the
recordings would be more accurate. This option was not available to me
and at the time I could only use thermometers that only measure in 1oC
As a related investigation I could do the same thing as this
investigation but see how not using a lid affects it. I would still
change the amount of insulation round the beaker. I could see if the
results of that were similar to the results I have for this
investigation. I could also change the type of insulation I use. I
could experiment with different types and see which style is best at
preventing heat loss. Some types will be made of a material that is
better at stopping energised particles from passing on their energy.
Another possible investigation to perform would be to use a different
amount of water. I could monitor whether more water would decrease the
rate of thermal energy being lost or vice-versa.