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A Study on Newtons Law of Cooling for Different Liquids at

Varying Ambient Temperatures

Madonna Feliz B. Madrigal *, Elaine Joyce S. Oquendo and Ramon Paolo T. Quintero
National Institute of Geological Sciences, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City 1101 Philippines
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City 1101 Philippines
*Corresponding author:

The cooling process is governed by Newtons Law of Cooling, which states that
the cooling rate is proportional to the system-environment temperature
difference. Newtons Law was studied using liquids with different heat
capacities at varying ambient temperature. Temperature of the liquid sample
submerged in a water bath was collected in 10-s intervals for 10 minutes. Upon
linearization of the cooling law, a plot of ln T vs. t will determine the value of k.
It was found out that objects with lower heat capacities tend to cool faster and
hot objects tend to cool faster in colder environments. Despite the presence of
some errors, the objectives of the experiment were still met.

1. Introduction
Thermal equilibrium between two or more systems is established when the temperatures of the two systems are
equal, as described by the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics. However, the instantaneous temperature of both systems
prior to thermal equilibrium cannot be determined using this law.
An empirical law attributed to Isaac Newton states that the rate of heat loss in a system is directly proportional to
the temperature difference between the system and the surroundings, as given by Equation (1).
where Q is heat lost by the system, t is time, k is a positive constant, T is the systems temperature and T a is the
ambient temperature. From the relation
, Equation 1 can be expressed as
. Using variable separation to solve this first-order differential equation, an expression of T as a
function of time may be derived, as given by Equation (3).
When the value of the constant k is determined, the entire temperature profile of a system may be plotted, which
can be used to predict the instantaneous temperature of the system at any time before thermal equilibrium is
The experiment aims to gain a deeper insight on Newtons Law of Cooling by varying different experimental
parameters such as the nature of the liquid used as well as the ambient temperature.

2. Methodology
The experimental setup consisted of thermocouples, stopwatch, preheater, beaker, water baths at different
temperatures, distilled water, table salt and vegetable oil. Figure 1 shows the Schematic Diagram of the experimental

Figure 1. Schematic Diagram for the experimental setup

In the experiment, one of the kettles heated on the electrical stove served as the preheater of the sample, while
the other served as the water bath. The experiment was divided into two parts.
In the first part of the experiment, the all parameters were held constant except the nature of the liquid sample.
The liquid was preheated to 80-90 . Then, a 250-mL beaker was filled with 100 mL of the preheated liquid and
was immediately submerged in the lukewarm water bath, with a temperature of approximately 30 , which is kept
constant by adding small pieces of ice and portions of lukewarm water. Temperature was recorded in 10-s intervals
for 10 minutes. The liquid samples were distilled water, cooking oil and saltwater, which was prepared by dissolving
table salt ( 99% NaCl) in distilled water.
The second part of the experiment was similar to its predecessor, except that the same liquid sample was used
and the temperature of the water bath was varied. The preheated distilled water sample was submerged in a
lukewarm water bath at 30 , a cold water bath at 10 and a warm water bath at 50 .
Afterwards, the value of k for each trial was determined using linear regression in MS Excel by plotting lnT vs. t.
The slope of the best fit line corresponds to the negative value of k. The temperature profile was then plotted in
MATLAB using the experimental k value.

3. Results and Discussion

The ln T vs. t plots during the first part of the experiment for the distilled water, saltwater and vegetable oil
samples are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. ln T vs. t plots and equations of the best-fit line
for (A) distilled water, (B) vegetable oil and (C) saltwater

Table 1 summarizes the k values obtained in the experiment for each liquid sample, along with their specific heat
capacity and density.
Table 1. Experimental k values for various liquids.
Vegetable oil
Distilled water

S. Heat



Based from Table 2, vegetable oil has the greatest k value, followed by saltwater. Distilled water has the least k
value. It can be seen that there is a direct correlation between the specific heat of the liquid and its k value. As the
specific heat of the sample increases, the k value decreases.
The constant k reflects the speed of the cooling process. Higher k values will mean faster cooling rate. The
specific heat capacity of a substance refers to the heat required for the temperature of that substance to increase by 1
K. Liquids with high specific heat capacities absorb more heat to increase its temperature; thus, these liquids require
more time to cool since they need to release more heat than the other liquids with lower specific ratio.
Generally, solutions have lower heat capacities than their pure substance counterparts. As the solute
concentration increases, the specific heat capacity of the solution decreases, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Plot of specific heat capacity vs. concentration of salt

The presence of ions in the solution formed by the dissolution of the salt in water disrupts the ability of the water
molecules to absorb heat. There would be less hydrogen bonding, and most of the water molecules will be involved
in hydrating the ions, forming a sheath around them. This apparently, lessens the ability of the molecules to absorb
heat, resulting to a lower heat capacity.
The temperature profiles of the three liquids are shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Temperature profiles for (A) saltwater
(B) Distilled water (C) oil

By inspection of the temperature profiles in Figure 4, it can be seen that all of them start at the initial
temperature, decay exponentially, and converge to the ambient temperature. Thus, the cooling law is valid for the
three liquids.
The ln T vs. t plots for the second part of the experiment are shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Temperature profiles for (A) saltwater

(B) Distilled water (C) oil

Table 2 summarizes the k values obtained in the experiment for each ambient temperature.
Table 2. Experimental k values for various liquids.
Water Bath

( )

( )


Based from Table 2, as the difference between the initial temperature and the ambient temperature increases, the
constant k, increases as well.
This implies that hotter objects tend to cool down faster than cooler objects; the rate of cooling is inversely
proportional to the ambient temperature, given a constant initial temperature. The superimposed temperature profiles
for each water bath are given by Figure 6.

Figure 6. Temperature profiles for water sample submerged in warm bath (green),
lukewarm water bath (red) and cold water bath (blue)

Sources of error include the loss of heat to the surrounding and mistakes during the experiment itself. The
temperatures of the water bath may not be kept constant at all times. The procedure involved the use of the same
volume of each liquid sample. This may have an effect to the results since the molar amount of each liquid varied.
The failure of the procedure to foresee the need to stir may also contribute to the error. However, since the results
matched with the theory, the error in the experiment was not highly significant.

4. Conclusion
When a hot object is cooled, it follows an empirical law which states that the rate of cooling is proportional to
the difference of the objects temperature and the ambient temperature. From the experiment, the cooling process
can be characterized by a constant k, which determines the speed of the process. It was found out that the cooling
process tends to be longer for objects with higher specific heat capacity. The cooling process was hastened by
manipulating the ambient temperature. Hot objects tend to cool faster in colder environments.
To prevent the repetition of errors committed in the experiment, the procedure must be revised in order to ensure
the accuracy of the results. Also, more time must be allotted for the procedure. But despite these errors, the
objectives of the experiment were met with success.

1. Young, H., University Physics, 12th ed., Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. USA (2007).
2. Physics Laboratory Manual, National Institute of Physics, University of the Philippines Diliman (2007).