Investigating Temperature in Insulators

Investigating Temperature in Insulators

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Investigating Temperature in Insulators

Preliminary Investigation


Which of the four materials acts as the best insulator when wrapped
around a glass beaker which is filled with boiling water?


The aim of this investigation is to test four materials (polystyrene,
fibre glass, cotton wool and bubble wrap), to see which one acts as
the best insulator. The temperature of the boiling water and the
material inside and outside will be taken at regular intervals by a
data logger and form this it will show the material that can insulate
the best. So this chosen material can be further tested in the main
practical by testing various thicknesses of the material, finding the
optimum size at which the material acts best as the insulator.


In theory a good insulator and poor insulator will produce a graph
like this:

[IMAGE]A good insulator will keep the temperature of the boiling water
as high as possible during the 20 minutes it will be timed for. And so
will produce a steep curve like the one in blue on the graph, which
would represent a good insulator.

A poor insulator wont be able to keep the temperature in the water, or
insulate it well so the temperature will drop fairly quickly.


I predict that cotton wool will be a good insulator because it will be
very good at reducing the heat loss. This is because inside cotton
wool there are many small pockets of trapped air, and air is a very
good insulator in small pockets. However I believe that fibre glass is
also a good conductor because this material also traps air, thus
preventing loss of heat due to convection currents. Air in its self
will also be a good insulator, but as I am only using the polystyrene
lid on cotton wool there will be a great difference in how the
temperature drops over the twenty minutes.


Ø Bubble wrap

Ø Polystyrene

Ø Fibre Glass

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Related Searches

Ø Cotton wool

Ø Air

Ø 5 Beakers

Ø Boiling water (kettle)

Ø Probes (attached to data logger)

Ø Thermometer

Ø Safety goggles

Ø Gloves

Ø Mask

Ø Elastic band

Ø Lid


Ø Firstly put on safety goggles

Ø Next collect all three beakers

Ø Cut all four materials so that they wrap twice around the beaker and
twice on the bottom of the beaker. Fill the beakers with 300ml boiling

Ø Wait until the water has been poured into the beaker and measure
this temperature –(use a thermometer to check this)

Ø Then place the temperature probes into the boiling water in each of
the beakers once they are clamped to a clamp stand. After of course
the data logger has been set up to a laptop.

Ø Record the room temperature at the time and in the boiling water
before you start logging the results.

Ø Use a stopwatch if you’re not using data logging equipment.

Ø Record each temperatures every 2 seconds for 20 minutes

Ø Save the results on the laptop or on paper

Ø Repeat this process for the other materials.

After viewing each of the results choose the most suitable material
for the main practical.

You can also draw cooling curves for this preliminary investigation
to view each of the materials readings.





I am also going repeat this experiment choosing a material and using
one beaker with a lid on it, which will be bubble wrap, to record the
differences in using a lid and not using a lid. Then from these
results I will carry on to do the experiment with the four materials
with or without the lid from this extra investigation.

Table of results

Time (minutes)

Temp °c

Temp °c

Temp °c

Temp °c

Cotton Wool

Bubble Wrap

Fibre Glass


From the graphs of each material I will be able to work out the
instantaneous temperature at any point. And in the main practical I
will be able to work out this and the optimum thickness of the
insulating material.

From this preliminary work I will be able to see clearly which
material will be suitable to use for the main practical, a material
that is the best insulator. So I will be looking out for a steep line
on the graph. I will finally be assessing whether to use a lid in my
main practical by comparing the cotton wool graph with lid with the
cotton wool graph without the use of a lid. I should be able to see a
significant difference.
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