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LAB#: 13

DATE: 05/03/18

TITLE: To determine the effect of insulation on heat loss

AIM: Determining the effect of insulation on heat loss

APPARATUS AND MATERIALS: water, cotton, round bottom flask, retort stands, rubber
bungs, thermometer.


1. 500 ml of boiled water was placed into a round bottom flask that was insulated with
cotton and another 500ml in an uninsulated round bottom flask. Both flasks were fitted
onto two separate retort stands using two clamps.
2. Each flask was sealed with a rubber bung through which a thermometer of range 0-100
degrees Celsius is placed.
3. The temperature of the water in each flask was recorded.
4. Over the next 20minutes, the temperature of the water was recorded every minute in each
5. A graph was plotted to compare the heat loss for each flask for the 20minute period.
6. The rate of fall in temperature for the water in each flask was calculated.


Uninsulated Insulated
0 92.0 88.0
2 90.0 87.0
3 89.0 86.5
4 88.0 86.0
5 87.0 85.5
6 86.0 85.0
7 85.0 84.5
8 84.0 84.0
9 83.5 84.0
10 83.0 83.5
11 82.0 83.0
12 81.0 83.0
13 80.0 82.5
14 79.0 82.0
15 78.5 82.0
16 77.0 81.5
17 76.5 81.0
18 75.5 80.5
19 74.0 80.0
20 74.0 79.5

Gradient = (Y2 - Y1) ÷ (X2 - X1)

Gradient of heat loss for insulated flask using the two points (3, 86.5) and (18, 80.5).

(Y2 - Y1) ÷ (X2 - X1)

(80.5-86.5) ÷ (18-3) = -6.0/15

= -0.40

Gradient of heat loss for uninsulated flask using the two points (3, 89) and (18, 75.5).

(Y2 - Y1) ÷ (X2 - X1)

(75.5-89) ÷ (18-3) = -13.5/15

= - 0.90

The negative gradient for both graphs means that the line slopes downwards and temperature on
the y-axis drops with time. The higher the gradient of a graph at a point, the steeper the line is at
that point hence the gradient for the uninsulated flask is -0.90 higher and steeper than the insulated
flask of -0.40. The trend indicates that there is a higher downward drop in temperature of the water
in the uninsulated flask.


Homeostasis can be defined as a property of an organism or system that helps it maintain its
parameters within a normal range of values. It is key to life, and failures in homeostasis can lead
to diseases like hypertension and diabetes. The goal of homeostasis is the maintenance of
equilibrium around a specific value of some aspect of the body or its cells called a set point. While
there are normal fluctuations from the set point, the body’s systems will usually attempt to go back
to this point. Also, Temperature regulation, or thermoregulation, is the ability of an organism to
maintain its body temperature when other temperatures surround it. An organism maintains
homeostasis, a steady internal state, only if its body temperature stays within prescribed limits.
Cellular activities require an optimum amount of heat. Another way to minimize heat loss to the
environment is through insulation. Birds use feathers, and most mammals use hair or fur, to trap a
layer of air next to the skin and reduce heat transfer to the environment. Marine mammals like
whales use blubber, a thick layer of fat, as a heavy-duty form of insulation.

Conduction is the transfer of heat between substances that are in direct contact with each other.
The better the conductor, the more rapidly heat will be transferred. Metal is a good conductor of
heat. Conduction occurs when a substance is heated, particles will gain more energy, and vibrate
more. These molecules then bump into nearby particles and transfer some of their energy to them.
This then continues and passes the energy from the hot end down to the colder end of the substance.
Thermal energy is transferred from hot places to cold places by convection. Convection occurs
when warmer areas of a liquid or gas rise to cooler areas in the liquid or gas. Cooler liquids or
gases then takes the place of the warmer areas which have risen higher. This results in a continuous
circulation pattern. Water boiling in a pan is a good example of these convection currents. Another
good example of convection is in the atmosphere. The earth's surface is warmed by the sun, the
warm air rises and cool air moves in. Radiation is a method of heat transfer that does not rely upon
any contact between the heat source and the heated object as is the case with conduction and
convection. Heat can be transmitted through empty space by thermal radiation often called infrared
radiation. This is a type electromagnetic radiation. No mass is exchanged and no medium is
required in the process of radiation. Examples of radiation is the heat from the sun, or heat released
from the filament of a light bulb. In addition, when the ambient temperature is above body
temperature, then radiation, conduction and convection all transfer heat into the body rather than
out. Since there must be a net outward heat transfer, the only mechanisms left under those
conditions are the evaporation of perspiration from the skin and the evaporative cooling from
exhaled moisture.

The trend above indicates that there is a higher downward drop or greater rate of heat loss in the
uninsulated flask. The cotton wool used in the lab investigation helps to inhibit or prevent the
conduction of heat due to the low thermal conductivity of heat at 0.029 W/ (m K). The cotton wool
prevents heat energy loss to the external environment from the hot water in the flask. Also the
cotton wool prevents heat loss from convection air currents such as wind or AC cool air blowing
on the flask. The human skin acts in a similar way; when the outside temperature is low, fatty
layers on the skin act as insulation, trapping heat and keeping it from leaving the body. Also Blood
flow is directed further away from the skin as blood vessels constrict to conserve warmth.

Thermoregulation is important to organisms because the bodies of plants and animals function best
at specific temperature ranges, and if body temperature slips too far outside its ideal temperature
range, the organism will die. For humans, the ideal body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius, or 98.6
degrees Fahrenheit. Humans can function normally when their body temperature is between the
range of 36.5 and 37.5 degrees Celsius, or 97.7 to 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Any colder and your
body will start shivering uncontrollably, your muscles will tighten to an uncomfortable extent, and
you will have very low energy. Too low and you will get hypothermia and freeze to death. If your
body gets any warmer than the ideal temperature range, you will start sweating heavily, if you’re
hydrated enough, and you will become dizzy and feel overwhelmingly fatigued. If you get too hot,
you will get hyperthermia, and overheat to the point of death.

1. The cotton wool was not covering the entire flask hence potential heat loss.
2. Possible inaccurate readings from thermometer. A data logger with temperature probe may
have been more accurate.


Every effort was made to reduce experimental error as much as possible. All conditions were kept
constant. However, the following may have been done to reduce experimental error:

1. We could have also used polystyrene lids to reduce heat loss by convection in the round
bottom flask.
2. Consider the effect of the amount of layers of cotton wool insulating the beaker as well as
looking at different volumes of boiling water.


 We looked at the meniscus at eye level to prevent parallax

 We made sure to clamp the flask with boiling water properly to avoid from falling.


From this lab investigation, it was determined that insulation helps to inhibit or prevent heat loss.