4B50.17 - Three Radiation Cans - Different Color Surfaces

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Three Radiation Cans - Different Color Surfaces
Thermoradiation vs. Color
Area of Study:
Sliver, White and Black Cans, LabQuest Mini with Three Thermometers, Hotplate, Beaker, Gloves, Funnel, Three Digital Thermometers (If needed), Three Bead Thermocouples (If Needed), and Graduated Cylinder.

Fill the silver, white, and black colored cans with boiling water.  Insert the three thermometers and then start the data collection.  Note that this will take at least 30 minutes of class time to complete the collection.  The silver can should have a slower rate of radiation cooling than the white or black cans.  The white and black cans should give almost identical cooling curves.

You may also do this experiment using themometer meters instead of using the interface.  In this instance you will need to keep a log of the temperature at regular intervals to manually plot your data.

The demonstration can also be performed in reverse.  Fill the cans with tap water and then place them into direct sunlight while monitoring the temperature increase of each can.  Note that this process will normally take several hours to collect the data.

  • Dennis Fung, "The 'Chocolate Experiment' - A Demonstration of Radiation Absorption by Different Colored Surfaces", TPT, Vol. 53, #9, Dec. 2015, p. 545.
  • E.G. Eaton, Richard DeGeer, and Phyllis Freier, "The Solar Constant: A Take Home Lab", TPT, Vol. 42, #1, Jan. 2004, p. 51 and TPT, Vol. 15, # 3, March 1977, p. 51.
  • Don McCarthy, "Figuring Radiative Efficiency", TPT, Vol. 40, #5, May 2002, p. 325.
  • "Figuring Physics", TPT, Vol. 40, # 5, May. 2002, p. 314.
  • Richard A. Bartels, "Do Darker Objects Really Cool Faster?", AJP, Vol. 58, #3, Mar. 1990, p. 244.
  • Tik L. Liem, "Which Coin Will Stay Longer", Invitations to Science Inquiry - Supplement to 1st and 2nd Ed. p. 82.
  • Julius Sumner Miller, Q79 & A79, Millergrams I – Some Enchanting Questions for Enquiring Minds, p. 51 & 103.

Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.