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How To Demonstrate Thermal Insulation and Conduction

How To Demonstrate Thermal Insulation and Conduction

In this video, Paul Cook shows you how to demonstrate thermal insulation and conduction, a component of GCSE Physics. An ice cube can be used to demonstrate both thermal insulation and conduction in a simple and visual way.

What Happens?

The black squares consist of two distinct materials: Metal (Aluminium) and Plastic. One possesses excellent heat conduction while the other possesses superior heat insulation. When ice is placed on both squares, it melts more rapidly on one, clearly indicating the contrast in their thermal conductivity. Did you know, different samples of metal squares can also show different rates of thermal conductivity?

You will need:

    • Ice Melting kit or Metal and plastic/wood same size square /tray.
    • 2 same sized ice cubes


      1. Show the two identical black squares and mention they are at room temperature
      2. Divide students into two groups – Hand the squares out for students to handle – left hand group gets one block and right-hand group gets the other – do not let them handle both.
      3. Ask the students to feedback characteristics of the squares
      4. Confirm the students feedback for each square
      5. Ask, as the squares are both identical will the ice cubes melt at the same rate.
      6. Place the ice cubes on the squares at the same time
      7. Highlight that one is visibly melting faster than the other – Why is that happening?
      8. Swap the ice cubes over to show the ice cubes do the same thing.
      9. Allow students to touch the corner of the squares – how is the ice cube melting so fast on the cold square but not the warm square?

    Video transcript below:




    temperature not heated not Shield

    exactly the same shape and size

    so can you tell me anything that you can

    feel any characteristics

    this one feels warm to room temperature

    does it feel light or heavy it feels

    light it feels light and warm what about

    this one this one feels colder and

    heavier okay


    and two black squares I’m just gonna use

    my infrared thermometer



    so this one felt warmer this one felt



    I have two ice cubes

    same size ice cubes nothing changed

    we’re going to put one in this Cube

    square and one in this Square


    can you see this one felt colder

    and the Ice Cube is already melting this

    one felt warm up and


    I haven’t done anything to the ice cubes

    both the same black sweaters

    put one over


    you can see this one stop melting


    let’s hit you into melt

    what is going on

    the faster temperature

    15.3 degrees and that one’s melting

    this one is 18.1 degrees

    and the Ice Cube is not melting



    this one is so cold and this one is

    still good that’s the one that’s melting


    this one still feels very cold

    and this one still feels warm

    so let me check the temperature.

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