We feel heat energy from the Sun.
In an eclipse of the Sun the heat and light are cut off at the same moment.
A greenhouse keeps the heat in it.
Electric fires have shiny reflectors behind them.
Houses in hot countries are often painted white.
Glass in greenhouses is often painted white in summer.
Artificial satellites are highly polished.
A highly polished stainless steel teapot will take longer to cool down than one of the same size with a rough dark surface.
Aluminium foil is sometimes put behind a radiator in a house.
A vacuum flask has shiny metal surfaces.
The fins on a motorcycle engine should be painted black.
You can control your TV with a remote controller.
Firemen search for people in smoke filled buildings with infra red detectors.
We can explain all these things it we know something
about the transfer of heat energy by RADIATION
. This radiation is invisible to the human eye
but the radiation from hot bodies can be felt by your hand. There are various sensitive
detectors but a very simple one is a thermometer with a blackened glass bulb.
proper name for heat radiation is INFRA RED RADIATION
All objects emit heat radiation. If we take two objects of the
same material and the same size but at different temperatures the one which is hotter will
emit more radiation. Two objects of the same material and the same temperature but of
different sizes emit different amounts of heat radiation – the bigger one emitting more
radiation than the smaller one.
Investigating heat radiation
radiation can be studied with quite simple apparatus.
Using the heater as a source of heat radiation and your hand as a
detector you can find out the following things:
1. Heat radiation travels through
2. Heat radiation travels very fast - if you put a book between your hand and the
heater the heat stops at once.
3. Long wavelength heat radiation in the far infra red does not travel through glass.
Heat radiation is absorbed better by black surfaces than by shiny ones
You can show
this last property by sticking a thin piece of aluminium foil on the back of your hand and
testing the heat received from the heater. If you now paint the foil black (using carbon black
dissolved in meths) and test the heat again you will find that it feels much hotter than without
the black although the heater was giving out the same amount of heat radiation in both
Some surfaces emit heat better than others. If
you heat up a metal plate which has one side black and the other shiny you will find that if
you test the heat emitted the black side emits much more heat than the shiny one. It is
important to remember that both sides of the plate were at the same
You may find it interesting to measure the heat radiation emitted by
each other's hands.
The results of the emission of radiation experiments can be
summarised as follows:
Black surfaces are the best emitters of heat radiation.
Black surfaces are the best absorbers of heat radiation.
Shiny surfaces are the best reflectors of heat radiation.
Shiny surfaces are poor absorbers of heat radiation.
Glass will not transmit long wave infra red radiation.
properties of heat radiation have the following effects and applications:
Radiators in houses do not actually radiate very well; they ought to be painted black.
Car radiators usually are a dark color so that they can get rid of the heat efficiently.
Aluminium foil is sometimes put behind radiators to reflect the heat out into the
3. A vacuum flask has shiny surfaces on the vacuum side to prevent heat
4. White clothes are worn in summer as they reflect the heat better than dark
5. The reflector behind an electric fire should be kept clean so that it will reflect
the heat well.
6. A greenhouse keeps warm inside because of the properties of the
glass. The short wavelength radiation from the Sun can get in but because the plants and
soil are cooler they emit longer wavelength radiation which cannot escape through the
7. Spacecraft have shiny surfaces to reflect the radiation from the Sun.
Highly polished teapots will keep hot longer as their surfaces do not give out heat so
9. White washed buildings will keep cooler in hot weather than darker
This classic piece of apparatus was devised to show the difference
between the absorption of heat radiation by black and silvered surfaces. When heat
radiation falls on the vane the black sides absorb heat better than the shiny sides, this
means that they hat up more quickly. The air next to the black sides heats up, expands and
so pushes the vane round.
Some versions of this apparatus have a vacuum inside
– see if you can find out how these work and which way the vane will rotate.
Leslie's cube is a metal box with four differently painted sides.
If it is filled with
boiling water from a kettle you can use either your hands or a thermopile connected to a
meter to try and decide which surfaces give out the most heat radiation.
that all the sides of Leslie's cube are at the SAME TEMPERATURE and so are both sides of
the metal plate although some surfaces give out more heat radiation than others.
These experiments should
have proved to you that:
1. Heat radiation travels through air
2. It travels at the same speed as light
3. It will not travel through glass
4. Black surfaces are the best emitters of heat radiation
5. Black surfaces are the best absorbers of heat radiation
6. Shiny surfaces are the best reflectors of heat radiation
7. Heat radiation can travel through a vacuum – that’s why we can feel heat from the Sun
Heat radiation is rays or waves of heat energy.
In spite of what some people think, wearing clothes of different colours does not make a lot
of difference to how well we can loose heat. It is the layers of air between our bodies and the
clothes that really matter. Also the colour of a car is a lot less important than whether it is
shiny or not.