What’s Hot and What’s Not

By Samantha Sheh
Junior Category (Grades 7-8)
Experiment | Chemistry, Engineering and Computer Science, Physics

In this experiment, cotton, polyester, rayon, and nylon fabrics of both black and white shades were tested to analyze the heat absorbency in materials. The results of this project could be beneficial to determine the best fabrics to wear in different weather. Warmth preserving materials would be great for colder weather, and vice versa for summer.

The hypothesis predicted that cotton and rayon would absorb the least heat because of its natural and breathable properties. Synthetic materials, like polyester and nylon, were estimated to absorb the most heat because of its chemically rigorous manufacturing process. The black fabrics were also hypothesized to absorb proportionally more heat than white fabrics. A 175 watt infrared heat lamp was used to heat the materials for 5 minutes each. A contraption was designed to hang each fabric 30 cm away from the bulb. The temperature was then taken with a thermometer gun and was then recorded. Each fabric was tested 3 times to find an average. Polyester absorbed the least heat in the experiment, while nylon and cotton absorbed the most heat. This contradicted the hypothesis and pointed to another determinant other than the natural or synthetic background. The black fabrics also had a higher temperature than the white fabrics, as hypothesized. However, there was a surprisingly minimal difference between white and black fabrics. In conclusion, the thermal effusivity of fabric is not completely determined by the material, but rather the respective manufacturing process. Factors like thickness and dyeing methods are almost equally important as the core ingredients of the fabric. Future improvements of this project include testing animal-based fabrics or trying a similar experiment in the natural sunlight to better understand the full spectrum and its effects on different fabrics.

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