Sunteți pe pagina 1din 3


 is the common glass thermometer you probably grew up
with. The thermometer contains some type of fluid, generally mercury.

Bulb thermometers rely on the simple principle that     


. Liquids take up less space when they are cold and
more space when they are warm (this same principal works for gases and is the
basis of the hot air balloon -- for more information, see How Hot Air Balloons

You probably work with liquids every day, but may not notice that things like
water, milk and cooking oil all take up more or less space as their temperatures
change. In these cases, the change in volume is fairly small. All bulb
thermometers use a fairly    and a   
 to accentuate the change
in volume. You can see this for yourself by making your own bulb thermometer
from scratch. Here is what you'll need:

u ë   


  - The lid should be the screw-
on kind and made from metal or plastic. I used a 48-ounce apple juice jar.
The jar needs to be glass so that its shape does not change when you
squeeze it.
u ë        



u ë  
  - 8 or 10 inches (about 23 cm) long, the thinner the better,
preferably clear
u       (not required)

To make your thermometer:

1. Π     

     The hole should be as close to the
diameter of the straw as you can get.
2. = 



  with your
silly putty both on the inside and the outside of the lid. When you get done, it should
look something like this:
3. £   
. You can do this either by filling it with water and
leaving it in the refrigerator overnight, or by making some ice water in a pitcher and
then pouring the ice water into your jar (straining the ice out in the process -- all you
want is water in the jar). Add food coloring if you desire and shake it up.

Put the jar on the table to keep it steady -- you want the jar filled to the brim with cold
water, as full as you can get it without overflowing.

4. º

  as shown in the figure above. When you screw on the cap, a
little water may spill out the sides, and a little water may be visible in the straw. That's
5. º 

 into the sink
until the sink is about half full.

Watch the level of the liquid in the straw and a very unusual thing will happen: You
will SEE the water in the jar expanding right before your eyes! As the water in the jar
gets warmer, it will expand and rise up the straw. This sort of    happens
every day, but we don't really notice it because the amount of expansion is fairly
small. Here, because we have routed the expanding water into a narrow straw, it is
much more obvious. We can actually see it happening.

What you have created is a simple bulb thermometer. And it works pretty well. If you wanted
to you could   
 it, and it would tell you the temperature fairly accurately. This
particular thermometer has a few problems, however:

u Because the working fluid is water, it cannot measure temperatures below 32 degrees
F / 0 degrees C (the water would freeze). It also cannot measure temperatures above
212 degrees F / 100 degrees C (the water would boil).
u Because the "bulb" (the jar) is so large, it takes a long time for the thermometer to
reach the same temperatures as the object it is measuring -- perhaps an hour.
u Because the top of the tube is open, the water can evaporate and pick up dust and

Sealing   in a small glass thermometer solves these problems. The small size of the
bulb means that the bulb reaches the temperature of what it is measuring very quickly, and
the tube in such a thermometer is micro-fine. Mercury also avoids the freezing and boiling
problems associated with water.

How do you   
 the thermometer? Two common scales are used:

u £ 
   - Daniel Fahrenheit arbitrarily decided that the freezing and boiling
points of water would be separated by 180 degrees, and he pegged freezing water at
32 degrees. So he made a thermometer, stuck it in freezing water and marked the level
of the mercury on the glass as 32 degrees. Then he stuck the same thermometer in
boiling water and marked the level of the mercury as 212 degrees. He then put 180
evenly spaced marks between those two points.
u D    - Anders Celsius arbitrarily decided that the freezing and boiling points
of water would be separated by 100 degrees, and he pegged the freezing point of
water at 100 degrees. (His scale was later inverted, so the boiling point of water
became 100 degrees and the freezing point became 0 degrees.)

As you can see, the temperature scales we commonly use are completely arbitrary! You could
come up with your own scale if you wanted to. The freezing and boiling points of water are
nice because they are easily reproduced, but there is nothing to say that you couldn't use
another scale.