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Investigate the affects of the surface area: volume ratio on the cooling of an organism.

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Surface Area to Volume Ratio



Investigate the affects does the surface area: volume ratio on the cooling of an organism.


  • 80ml beaker
  • 250ml beaker
  • 500ml beaker
  • 800ml beaker
  • Thermometer
  • Kettle
  • Stop clock
  • Water



  1. Collect a 80ml beaker
  2. fill with 75ml of boiling water
  3. place a thermometer in the beaker
  4. Wait for temperature to stay constant
  5. record the starting temperature
  6. Time for five minutes
  7. then record the temperature
  8. now work out the decrease in temperature
  9. repeat this three time to work out an average
  10. Repeat all the above using a 250ml,500ml and 800ml size beakers
  11. now work out the surface area of each beaker using the formula (c*h)+(πr²)



Types of variables

How it is controlled

Starting temperature


Measuring the temperature, and waiting for it to settle

Volume of water


Measuring accurately with a cylinder

Size of beaker


Use the same or same size beaker each time.

Rate of cooling


Keep the surroundings the same

Time allowed to cool


Use a stop clock

Surface area


Measure the surface area using an accurate ruler

Material of beaker


Use the same beaker, or a beaker of the same material

To keep my experiment fair I have to only change one variable and that will be the surface area. All the rest I will keep the same. Therefore my results should be more accurate.


...read more.


The theory that the larger the object the better it retains heat can be observed in certain animals. One example is the emperor penguin and the fairy penguin. The emperor lives in Antarctica and is large and the Fairy lives in Australia and is small. As the emperor lives in a cold climate it needs to retain heat. This is achieved because the emperor has a low surface area : volume ratio which means it retains heat more efficiently. The fairy needs to lose heat as it lives in a hot climate. It achieves this by having a high surface area : volume ratio which means it loses heat more  efficiently.Generally animals that live in cold regions tend to be bigger than related species that live in hot areas because they need to retain heat. In this experiment beakers were used, as it would be unethical to use animals.

Trial experiment:

In my trial experiment I used 50ml, 100ml beaker. I heated them up and time them over 5 mins.

Beaker size

1st result (˚c)

2nd result (˚c)

3rd results (˚c)

Average (˚c)











...read more.


A different experiment I could do to show that it really is surface area, which is affecting the rate of heat loss and not the differences in levels up to which the fixed volume of water comes in the different sized beakers, would be to change the shape of the beakers. This would be to have containers of the same volume and made of the same material but which have different shapes. For example a short wide beaker and a tall narrow beaker, and in both we would put the same volume of water filling both containers completely. Objects of the same volume can have very different surface areas (see diagram below) .Then from this we could see whether it really is the surface area that affects heat loss from an object.

The surface area of the object below is 34 units with a volume of 8 image03.png

While this object  having the same volume has a smaller surface area of only 24 units.image04.png


...read more.

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