The insulating properties of materials depend
on the chemical type of the material and how it is
constructed.Cotton is a type of carbohydrate.
Wool is a type of protein. If the material is
very thick, it will insulate better than if it is
woven loosely. If the material is fluffy, it will
hold a lot of air, and that will be a good
Another of the insulating
properties of clothing is how well it pulls the
sweat off our skin. When the sweat sits on our
skin, it evaporates - and that makes us colder.
But some materials pull, or 'wick', the sweat away
from the skin onto the material, so the wet sweat
doesn't stay on our skin, where it evaporates and
makes us cold. I think polyester is good for
wicking the sweat off our skin.
We can get
better insulation by wearing layers of clothing
when we want to stay warm. More layers give more
It would be fun to test
different fabrics or materials for how well they
insulate. Maybe you could have a thermometer that
reads temperatures close to room temperature, and
a table lamp with a light bulb that gets hot, like
an incandescent light bulb. Then you could put
the thermometer under different fabrics, under the
lamp, and see how fast the temperature rises. If
the material is a good insulator, the temperature
won't rise as fast.
You will want to measure
the room temperature each time you do experiments,
and write it down. Then, you will want to measure
how much the temperature rises for the thermometer
under the light bulb, with no fabric covering it.
That is your baseline. It tells you how much the
temperature rises with no insulation.
will want to do some experiments to find
conditions, where there is a nice temperature
rise. It would be nice to have the temperature
rise a few degrees in about 10 minutes. Then you
could measure the temperature rise in 10 min for
1. How far away does the
hot light bulb need to be? Maybe the temperature
change in 10 min is too small. You could get a
faster temperature change by putting the material
and the thermometer closer to the light bulb -
maybe by putting some books under them.
fast does your thermometer respond to temperature
changes? For example, after it heats up, and you
move it back to a place in the room that is at
`room temperature, how long does it take for the
thermometer to cool back down to room temperature?
It would be nice to have a thermometer that
responds fast, but that is not necessary.
You will want to be careful to make all your
measurements under the same conditions. For
example, after you make one measurement, the table
will be warm where the lamp's light was shining;
so, for the next measurement, you will want to
move the lamp to a place on the table that is not
You can measure the insulating
properties of materials other than fabrics. How
fast does the temperature rise if you put a piece
of plastic wrap or aluminum foil or glass or
bubble wrap or wood under the light bulb and on
top of the thermometer? What happens if you test
a flat zip-lock baggie, and then put some air in
it and test it again? What about bubble wrap with
little bubbles, as compared with bubble wrap with
Another experiment with
insulation is to measure the temperature change
for different numbers of layers of the same
material, such as: 1 layer of material, 3 layers,
10 layers, etc.
For a few experiments, or
when you are finding good conditions, you can
measure the temperature of the thermometer under
the material at the beginning - "time zero" - and
then at 5 minutes, 10 min, 15 min, and 20 min
later. Then you can make a graph of the
temperatures and the times.
I like your
project. It sounds fun and interesting and
useful.Keep asking questions!