Create a convection spiral with Fizzics Education | Kids Science Experiments


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Convection spiral

Convection spiral

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You will need:

  • Pen, paper or a printer
  • Scissors and string
  • One desk lamp
  • Adult supervision and help


Convection spiral science experiment - materials needed
1 Convection spiral science experiment - cutting out the spiral of paper

Cut a spiral out of paper as illustrated below. A 6 cm diameter spiral should be sufficient.

2 Convection spiral science experiment - Spotlight facing upwards

Turn on the desk lamp and shine its light towards the ceiling.

3 Convection spiral science experiment - knot to tie on the end of the string

Make a whole in the exact centre of the spiral and thread the string through it.

4 Convection spiral science experiment - attached string to the paper spiral using a knot

Tie a knot in the end of the string to hold the spiral in place.

5 Convection spiral science experiment - spiral paper hanging over the spotlight

Holding the string, dangle the spiral 10 cm above the desk lamp

BE CAREFUL: Don’t let the paper touch the light!

6 A man holding a blow torch onto a white tile whilst wearing safety glasses

Get the Unit of Work on Heat Energy here!

  • What actually is heat?
  • How does heat move through different materials?
  • How does heat change the properties of materials and more!

Includes cross-curricular teaching ideas, student quizzes, a sample marking rubric, scope & sequences & more

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7 Solar panel electricity generation measurement
8 Teacher showing how to do an experiment outside to a group of kids.

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– Help students learn how science really works

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Why Does This Happen:

The desk lamp light heated the surrounding air. Heating air causes the air molecules to travel farther apart, thereby making the air less dense. Less dense air will always rise above dense air.

As the warm, lighter, air rises upwards the paper spiral begins to spin. The process keeps working because the cooler surrounding air keeps coming towards the light and warming up. This is a simple demonstration of convection currents that exist in thunderstorms and ocean currents. Click here for a simple demonstration of temperature and water density.

Put simply, a convection current is the transfer of heat energy by the movement or flow of a substance from one position to another.

Rain often occurs when an area of warm moist air is forced to rise over a cold air front. This forms a strong convection current of warm moist air moving upwards, known as an updraft. The moisture within the warm air condenses at high altitude, forming cumulus clouds. As the moisture condenses, the water drops become bigger and bigger. Eventually, the water drops within the cloud become too heavy to be held up by the updraft and they start to fall as rain.

If the updraft is strong enough, a large cloud called a cumulonimbus can be formed. I.e. A thunderstorm. These clouds can be several kilometres high and keep building in height until the moisture updraft reaches 10 to 12 kilometres high. The atmosphere is much more stable at this high altitude, known as the tropopause, causing the cloud begin to spread out and form the classic thunderstorm’s anvil shape. The cloud will continue to grow as long as there is warm moist air below it. Inevitably the rain falling through the cloud cools the air below, causing the cloud to rain heavily and dissipate.

Variables to test

More on variables here

  • Change the width of the spiral.
  • Change the length of the spiral.
  • Change the strength of the light (torch through to spotlight)
  • Does the type of string that you use make a difference?

A man with a glove above a liquid nitrogen vapour cloud

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