The Effects of Surface Area to Volume Ratio on the Rate of Heat Loss

Thomas Hess, Caleb Jones, Dallas Hayes, Kaytlyn Goodwin


For this experiment, we set out to determine the relationship between the ratio of surface area to volume and the rate at which the core temperature of an object or animal decreases when exposed to their environment.  Following the observations of the badgers, we thought that as the size decreases and surface area to volume ratio of an animal or object increases, the rate at which it loses heat will increase, we experimented to see if this is the case.  Observations have already been made in the wild regarding the size of a badger and the average temperature of its native climate.  These observations were that badgers in colder climates tend to have longer bodies and more mass (French, 2014). However, we believe this to be insufficient to claim a relationship between surface area to volume ratio and the rate at which the core temperature decreases, because in the wild there are too many variables at play to be able to accurately isolate any single one of them. So we set our experiment in a controlled environment within a lab with standardized shape and known measurements in order to eliminate as many variables as possible, and avoid the problems with the previous observations.  We made sure to control the temperature surrounding the clay, the shape of the clay, the composition of the clay, the time exposed, and the temperature of the probe itself.   We experimented to test this hypothesis by observing the rate of temperature change in the core of spheres of clay that were submersed in ice water.  We hypothesize that as the surface area to volume ration increases, the animal will lose heat at a faster rate, because more surface area will come into contact with the environmental temperature per unit volume.

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