Insulation Lab: Chris, Vivienne, Jung, & JustinThis is a featured page

Christopher Huie - Conclusion, hypothesis, procedure, safety
Vivienne Tsan - Conclusion, editing, brought materials, research, bibliography
Jung Young Kwak -Graph, editing, research
Justin Tan- Purpose, Data Table, research, bibliography
Insulation Lab

To investigate how different substances can help an organism retain heat.

Research and Bibliography:

Penguins: Warm Blooded

They have small feathers that are covered with a thin layer of oil and overlap like roofs. The penguins shuffle the feather to make air pockets then the blubber beneath the feather keeps the heat in. Penguin feathers are extremely dense and dark. The dark colors help absorb heat from the sun, keeping the penguin insulated. They have blubber, which is fat that is a trait retained by most "fat" (living in below-freezing conditions) animals. It helps them keep warm because their body has some ‘thing’ to burn. They travel in packs, this means they use the heat of other penguin’s bodies to stay warm.

Marathon Runners:

1st Layer: cool, bordering on cold

-Wicking hat
-Wicking light-weight snug running shirt
-Light-weight running gloves
-Light-weight running tights
-Wicking underwear (especially for men)
-Thick, absorbent socks
-Running shoes

2nd Layer: For when cold/near freezing

-polypropylene (Coolmax or Thermax) (long-sleeved shirt/lightweight windbreaker)
-Heavy tights (lightweight tights not needed if this is worn)
-Guys: insulated underwear may be worn to prevent cold-related injuries in especially sensitive areas

3rd Layer: Below Freezing
-Balaclava/skiing mask
-Long sleeved shirt and windbreaker (Goretex is a good option)
-Lined, waterproof mittens
-Fleece pant lining

Skiers and Snowboarders:

They wear materials such as cotton, nylon, fleece, wool, polyester, polyamide, thinsulate etc. They also keep warm by layering. By layering, you trap the air that tries to penetrate your body, leaving you insulated. They also wear darker colors such as navy or black. The darker the color, the more heat it will absorb, increasing the level of insulation.
The outsides and insides of ski jackets are 100% polyamide, the padding and lining of 100% polyester. They also wear thinsulate, a humam-made product that performs similarly to down. It is extremely light-weight and maintains its warmth and loft even when wet.


"How Do Penguins Stay Warm." Google. 1 Feb. 2008

"Thermal Insulation." Wikipedia. 2001. Wikipedia. Hong Kong. 24 Feb. 2008

Smith, S.e. "Cotton." Wisegeek. 2003. 15 Feb. 2008

Bloomfield, Louis A. "Clothing and Insulation." How Things Work. 1997. 16 Feb. 2008

Clothing materials that are denser tend to absorb heat (energy) and trap air more than less dense materials, thus making it a better insulator.


160 mL of Boiling Water
4 Test Tubes
1 Roll of Cotton
1 Roll of Rubber
1 Roll of Wool
1 Test Tube Holder


Insulation Lab Diagram


1. Cut wool, spandex, and cotton into same sized rectangle pieces
2. Wrapped 3 of the test tubes in the different materials, controlled left alone.
3. Poured 40 mL of boiling water into each test tube
4. Placed 1 thermometer in each test tube (starting temp.)
5. Recorded temperature of water (visited the experiment site every 1 minute)
6. Recorded results into data table

Independent Variable:

Dependent Variable: Temperature


Since the water that will be held in the test tube is boiling, it is obviously extremely hot. Be extra cautious when dealing with it. Remember to use the test tube holder (clamper) to clamp the test tubes. This way, you can avoid direct contact with the hot tube, lowering the risks of danger.

Data Table:

Starting Temperature


First Minute

Second Minute

Third Minute

Fourth Minute

Fifth Minute

Sixth Minute


81 48 39.5 34.5 31 29 26.5


81 51.5 46 43 38 35 33


81 49 45 40.5 37 34 32


81 46 45 36 33.5 29 28

*All temperatures are measured in Celcius.


Data Table and Graph - Lepore Science

The hypothesis stated that clothing materials that are denser tend to absorb heat (energy) and trap air more than less dense materials, thus making it a better insulator. The results of the data proved this hypothesis accurate. In the experiment, materials that were denser (wool) proved to be better insulators than materials that were less dense (spandex).

In the experiment, the materials spandex, cotton, and wool were tested for their ability to contain heat (insulation). Each material was cut out into rectangles of the same size and were wrapped around test tubes containing water at the temperature of 81 degrees celcius. After every minute, a thermometer was inserted into the test tube to measure the temperature of the water. The process was continued for six minutes. The spandex was the worst insulator out of the three. After 6 minutes, the spandex-wrapped test tube's temperature dropped from 81 degrees to 28 degrees, a total drop of 53 degrees, an average decrease of 8.8 degrees per minute. The spandex was the least dense material out of the three and was by far the worst insulator, supporting the hypothesis of denser materials being better insulators. The cotton proved to be the second best insulator of the three. It decreased from 81 degrees to 32 degrees, a total decrease of only 49 degrees, which is an average decrease of around 8.15 degrees per minute. The cotton was the second densest material and was the second-best insulator in the experiment. The wool was the best insulator of the three. However, it only contained heat slightly better than the cotton. It started at 81 degrees and dropped to 33 degrees, a total decrease of 48 degrees, which is an average decrease of 8 degrees per minute. It was the densest of the three materials and supported the hypothesis by containing heat (insulating) at the highest level.

Denser materials contain heat better than less dense materials because the heat has to travel through more material, slowing down the process of heat escape. Spandex is not very dense, this is true because when it is stretched, small holes between the threads are visible. Because spandex is not very dense, it was not as good of an insulator as cotton or wool. The materials cotton and wool are compositionally quite similar. They are dense with many threads, and are quite thick. Because of their composition, they both proved to be fine insulators. Only allowing heat to escape at around 8 degrees per minute. Since wool was slightly denser, it ultimately performed slightly better. Evidently, the density of materials greatly effects it's ability to contain heat.


Some problems that were experienced during the lab were trying to figure out how to make it a fair experiment. Before starting the lab, many discussions regarding the topic of a fair experiment were made. Finally, it was concluded that in order to conduct a fair experiment the materials had to be of the same size, the water had to of the same temperature and poured in at around the same time, and the measurement of heat by thermometers had to be conducted at the same time. The task of ensuring that no additional variables were made was at times quite challenging, but finally, it was accomplished. During the experiment, the hot water was not poured into the test tube at the same time, allowing one to sit longer. A suggestion to make the lab more successful and accurate would be to have four different people pour the hot water into the test tube at the same time. This way, the problem of one test tube's water sitting around longer and losing heat quicker would be eliminated; it also ensures that all four of the test tube's starting water temperature would be the same. If this suggestion was incorporated, it would greatly increase the chances of a more successful lab.

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