Heat Transfer Experiment

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Written by Marci Goodwin of The Homeschool Scientist.

As a hockey mom who spends an inordinate amount of time in freezing cold ice rinks, heat is on my mind quite a lot. I am always trying to find the warmest spot in the rink where I can still see my son in action, but not turn into a popsicle.

I am constantly on the search for the proper amount of clothing to layer in all seasons to stay warm in the rink, but not hot everywhere else. It is a delicate balance sometimes. My goal is to trap as much of my body heat inside my layers of clothing as possible.


Heat Is Energy

As you may know, heat is energy. That energy always travels from a warmer substance to a colder one. That is why when the weather is cold (or we are in an ice rink) we try to keep the heat energy of our bodies held within the layers of our clothing so it is not transferred to the cold air around us.

If we look at heat at an atomic level, we see that warmer particles move faster than colder particles and have a higher kinetic energy. When the temperature of a substance starts to increase, the particles start to move faster and the kinetic energy increases.

In order for a substance to increase in temperature, energy has to be transferred from somewhere. Another substance has to transfer some of its heat (or energy) to the cooler substance. This causes the kinetic energy of the substance transferring the energy to decrease and the particles to slow down.

Heat Transfer Experiment

Every time something gets warmer something gets colder because of the transfer of energy from one substance to another. Try this is simple heat transfer experiment to test this theory yourself.


  • 14 oz aluminum can
  • Plastic or glass container that the aluminum can and 1 cup of water can fit into
  • 2 thermometers
  • Water
heat transfer experiment


  1. Warm 1 cup of water until it is steaming hot. It does not have to be boiling. Carefully, pour the hot water into the aluminum can.
  2. Pour 1.5 – 2 cups of cold tap water into the other container.
  3. Place a thermometer in each container and take the temperatures of the water in both containers simultaneously.
  4. After recording the temperatures, immediately set the aluminum can of hot water into the container of cooler water.
  5. Record the temperatures of both containers simultaneously every minute for the next 15 minutes.
  6. Graph your results – temperatures vs. time.
heat transfer experiment

What Happened?

It doesn’t take long to see the transfer of heat happen. Almost immediately, the temperature of the hot water in the can will decrease, while the temperature of the cooler water in the other container will increase.


Your graphs should show that the temperatures of the water in the two containers started far apart, but grew closer over time. This shows that heat energy was being transferred from the hot water in the aluminum can into the cooler water of the container. The water in the two containers will eventually reach equilibrium, or become the same temperature.

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This article was written by a Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers guest author. See the author's full bio in the body of the post.

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