Sunday, October 24, 2010

Visualizing convection without using ink

Figure 1. A top view of a floating
ice cube.
If you have done a convection demo using a container of water and some ink, you may have had to change the water after each demo since the ink had diffused everywhere, which may make the convection pattern less easy to observe. Depending on the size of your container, that is some work to do and some water and ink to waste.

Here is a greener and better way to do it--using an infrared (IR) camera. An IR camera shows hot and cold (typically) in red and blue colors, which can be considered as "IR ink" that can be seen only through an IR camera. With the tool, all you can do is to add some ice cubes or hot water to a container of water every time you need to do a demo. There is no need to change the water.
Figure 2. A side view of a floating ice
cube showing "cold fingers." 

One thing to notice is that you should not use a glass container--because it reflects off IR rays that will get into the image. A clear plastic one is the best as it does not reflect much and it allows you to observe what happens inside (if anything visible) with naked eyes.

Figure 3. A view from another side
showing the the cooling at the
Figure 4. An IR image after hot water
was added to room temperature water
in a container showing hot water
tended to float atop.
Figure 5. An IR image of a fish tank
showing a clear pattern of
temperature stratification.

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