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Thermodynamics Demos

Click on any link in order to view the demonstration with an instructional video. Additionally, there are procedure/activity plans listed for some of the demonstrations below. If you have an idea for an activity plan, download the demonstration template from the navigation panel, fill it out and email it to

Ball and Ring

At room temperature, ball can fit through the ring. Heat up the ball with a torch, causing it to expand, and the ball can no longer fit through the ring.

CAUTION: Open flame.

Balloon and Can

At room temperature, the balloon (over the opening of the can) is not inflated. Heat up the can and the balloon will expand.

CAUTION: Open flame.

Boiling Water by Removing Air

At STP, the water does not boil. Remove air from the flask and the water will start to boil because of the change in pressure inside the flask.

Coefficient of Expansion

Think piece of metal composed of two different types if metal with two different coefficients of expansion. When heated up, metal with curl one way, and when cooled down, will curl the other way. At room temperature, metal will lay flat.

CAUTION: Open flame.

Expanding Balloon

Balloon placed inside plastic vacuum chamber. When air is removed from inside the chamber, the balloon with expand because of the changing pressure.

Fire Eater

Baton end is lit on fire and is put out with users mouth. Demonstrates the high specific heat of saliva. The lack of oxygen inside the users closed mouth puts the flame out before the user is burned due to the high specific heat of saliva.

CAUTION: Risk of serious injury! Burns to mouth and lips may occur if not done correctly!

Global Warming from Hand Boiler

Hand Boiler has been used to show the thermal expansion of water which is one of the consequences of global warming. 

Heat Shielding

Heat shielding used on space crafts. Hold dial thermometer to back (white side) if shielding, and heat up the front (black side) and observe that the back does not heat up at all--showing the effectiveness of the heat shielding.

CAUTION: Open flame.

Pressure Crushing Can

Remove the air from the inside of an aluminum can and see that the can will no long be able to support the force due to pressure on the outside of the can, causing it to implode.

Pressure (Cast Iron Sphere)

When pressure on inside the sphere is the same as on the outside of the sphere, the two halves come apart with ease. Remove the air from the inside and observe the two halves can no longer be pulled apart.

Fluids in a Glass Tube

At room temperature, fluid lies as shown in video, heat up one side and observe the fluid move to the other side because the molecules are beat excited on the heated side causing the gas to expand.

CAUTION: Open flame.

Rising Mallet

Mallet is placed in a clear cylinder with no lid. Turn on vacuum pump and notice that the mallet does not rise. Place hand over top of cylinder and see that the mallet rises due to the difference in pressure above and below the mallet.

Sterling Engine

Gas above the piece of styro-foam is heated causing it to expand, gas then on the bottom is compressed. The compression then in turn causes heating and the gas expands moving the styro-foam back up and the process is repeated until gas inside chamber reaches thermal equilibrium. The subsequent motion of the styro-foam moves a piston attached to a rotating wheel.