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Abstract

This science fair project was conducted to evaluate how thermal conductivity varies in different types of metals. The tests were done with copper, aluminum and steel wires

Hypothesis

Copper wire is a better thermal conductor than steel or aluminum, and steel wire is the worst.

Scientific Terms

Thermal conductivity, thermal resistivity, thermal energy, thermal conduction, atoms, molecules

Background

Thermal conductivity

Thermal conductivity refers to the ability of a material to conduct heat. The unit measurement for thermal conductivity is watts per meter Kelvin. Thermal resistivity, which refers to the opposition to thermal conduction, is the reciprocal of thermal conductivity.

The transfer of thermal energy from a warmer area to a cooler area is called thermal conduction. The rate at which thermal energy is being transferred is called thermal conductivity. Thermal energy is always transferred from a warmer to a cooler area. Thermal conduction can also occur between 2 different objects that touch each other.

All matter is made from particles of atoms or molecules. When heat is applied to one area of an object, the molecules within that area will receive thermal energy and start to vibrate more quickly. As they vibrate, the particles collide more often with neighboring particles and transfer over some of their energy. When this happens, the thermal energy of the original particle is reduced while the neighboring particle will gain thermal energy. This process continue until a state of equilibrium is reached between all neighboring particles.

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Complexity level:
7
Project cost ($):
30
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 1 hour for the science project experiment
Material availability:
Easily found at a hobby store
Safety concerns:

Handle boiling water very carefully – adult assistance is required.