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# Lab Temperature Monitoring

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Have you ever seen dry ice? When the ice chunks are exposed to the air, they quickly sublime (turn from solid to gas) which produces a thick misty fog like a witch's cauldron.

Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide, and to touch it you need to be wearing special gloves. Why? Because dry ice is about -109 °F! If you were to touch that with your bare hands, you would get severe burns akin to frostbite, and nobody wants that!

The way dry ice is made is by injecting gaseous carbon dioxide into a tank, which is at a temperature of -109 °F. So how do they know the temperature of the tank in the first place? They can't exactly use a typical mercury thermometer since it would freeze too!

In this article, we will be learning how to measure temperature in the lab. We will be learning what temperature is, the tools used to measure it, and how to best measure it.

• The article focuses on measuring temperature in the lab.
• First, we bring up some questions you may have about measuring temperature.
• Next, we will define what temperature is and what it measures.
• Then, we will learn what units to use when measuring temperature.
• After that, we will look at some common tools used to measure temperature.
• Lastly, we will discuss the steps for measuring temperature.

## Measuring temperature questions

If it's your first time in the lab, you probably have a bunch of questions:

• What do I use to measure temperature?
• What units should I measure in?
• How do I best measure temperature?
• What does temperature even measure?

Well, today we are going to be answering all your temperature-related questions. Keep reading to find out more!

## Measuring temperature definition

When you think about temperature, you probably think about it in terms of how hot or cold something is. But what does temperature measure, really?

Temperature is a measure of average kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion

In other words, temperature is a measure of how fast particles move. At low temperatures, particles have very little movement, and will only vibrate in place. At high temperatures, particles are bouncing all around.

Different physical processes (like freezing/melting) and chemical processes (like chemical reactions) can only occur at certain temperatures/temperature ranges. Therefore, being able to accurately measure temperature is an important skill in the lab!

Average kinetic energy

As mentioned in the definition, temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy. If you had a gas at about 20 °C, that doesn't mean that every particle is moving with the energy that corresponds to that temperature.

Some particles might be moving faster or slower than the average, however, most particles will be moving at the corresponding speed. Because of this, we can't really know how fast any individual particle is moving. This is why we consider the average instead.

## Measuring units of temperature

Here in the U.S., we measure temperature in Fahrenheit (°F). However, pretty much the entire rest of the world uses Celsius (°C). Because of this, it is common to measure temperature in Celsius, not Fahrenheit (even though it can be confusing at first).

For those of you who are just starting to use Celsius, here are some key points on the scale:

• 0 °C is the freezing point of water (32 °F).
• 100 °C is the boiling point of water (212 °F).
• 78.37 °C is the boiling point of ethanol (a common solvent) (173.1 °F).

If the apparatus you are using is in Fahrenheit, here is the equation to convert between units:

$$(x^\circ F-32)*\frac{5}{9}$$

For example, say you get a reading of 70.2 °F:

$$(x^\circ F-32)*\frac{5}{9}$$

$$(70.2^\circ F-32)*\frac{5}{9}=21.2^\circ C$$

Technically speaking, the standard unit of temperature for scientists is Kelvin (K). However, you will commonly see scientists using Celsius, and many temperature reading tools are also in Celsius.

The conversion between these units is:

$$x^\circ C+273.15=K$$

## Measuring tools of temperature

When you think of temperature tools, what images pop up into your mind? The mercury-filled thermometer on your fridge? Or maybe the thermometer you put in your mouth when you are sick? While these are both valid ways of measuring temperature, they aren't common in the lab.

The most common thermometers used in the lab are called probe thermometers.

Fig.1-A probe thermometer

The long metal stick (shown above) is the titular "probe". The probe is placed inside the solution whose temperature you are measuring. The screen portion will then display the temperature.

While they are less common, mercury thermometers can be used in the lab.

Fig.2-A mercury thermometer

The red liquid inside the thermometer is mercury. When mercury is heated, it expands, causing it to move up the thermometer and display the temperature. When it is cooled, it contracts, causing it to move downward.

These thermometers are less common since you have to manually read the temperature, which can lead to errors if read incorrectly.

## Ways of measuring temperature

Now that we know our tools of the trade, let's talk about the best practices for actually measuring temperature. Below are the steps to properly measure temperature:

1. (If digital) Turn on the thermometer, making sure it is measuring in the correct units and is calibrated
• If the device cannot measure in the desired units, make sure to convert before using the measurement(s) in any calculations.
• The best way to calibrate thermometers is by placing them in ice water for at least 30 seconds. The freezing point of water is 0 °C, so you adjust the thermometer until it reads that temperature.
2. Place the thermometer inside the solution
• Make sure the thermometer is not touching the glass of the beaker/walls of the container. This will instead give you the temperature of the glass.
3. Swirl the thermometer around the solution
• Swirling ensures that the temperature throughout the solution is uniform
4. Wait for the thermometer to reach the temperature of the species
• Do not write down the temperature until the temperature reading has not changed for at least 3 seconds
5. Repeat steps 2-4 a few times to ensure the accuracy of the measurement
• Typically, you would use the average of your measurements as the "correct" temperature reading

When measuring temperature, or any variable really, we want to be as accurate as possible. Because of this, it is best to follow the steps above. Having the correct temperature value is important for not only calculations but also, so you can better understand what is happening in your experiment.

## Lab Temperature Monitoring - Key takeaways

• Temperature is a measure of average kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion
• Even though the U.S. uses the Fahrenheit scale, we measure temperature in Celsius (or Kelvin). The equation used to convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius is: $$(x^\circ F-32)*\frac{5}{9}$$
• The conversion between Celsius and Kelvin is: $$x^\circ C+273.15=K$$
• Probe thermometers are the most common thermometer used in the lab
• The steps for measuring temperature are:
1. (If digital) Turn on the thermometer, making sure it is measuring in the correct units
2. Place the thermometer inside the solution
3. Swirl the thermometer around the solution
4. Wait for the thermometer to reach the temperature of the species
5. Repeat steps 2-4 a few times to ensure the accuracy of the measurement
• The best way to calibrate thermometers is by placing them in ice water for at least 30 seconds. The freezing point of water is 0 °C, so you adjust the thermometer until it reads that temperature.

## References

1. Fig.1-A probe thermometer (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f4/Laboratory_digital_thermometer.jpg/640px-Laboratory_digital_thermometer.jpg) by Nadina Wiórkiewicz on Wikimedia Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
2. Fig.2-A mercury thermometer (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/36/Laboratory_thermometer-01.jpg/640px-Laboratory_thermometer-01.jpg) by Lilly M (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Lilly_M) licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

## Frequently Asked Questions about Lab Temperature Monitoring

We measure temperature by using a thermometer. The specific type of thermometer used is based on the type of things being measured.

The best way to calibrate thermometers is by placing them in ice water. The freezing point of water is 0 degrees Celsius, so you adjust the thermometer until it reads that temperature.

The standard calibration temperature is the freezing point of water (0 °C).

Four methods of measuring temperature are:

1. Probe thermometers
2. Infrared thermometers
3. Mercury thermometers
4. Immersion thermometers

You can calibrate an infrared thermometer just like you would a normal thermometer. You aim the thermometer at a crushed ice bath (should have a slurry consistency to ensure an even temperature) and it should read 0 °C. You can adjust the thermometer until it gives the correct reading.

## Lab Temperature Monitoring Quiz - Teste dein Wissen

Question

What is temperature?

Show answer

Answer

Temperature is a measure of average kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion

Show question

Question

True or False: Temperature is a measure of how fast particles move

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Why is measuring temperature correctly important?

Show answer

Answer

Different physical processes (like freezing/melting) and chemical processes (like chemical reactions) can only occur at certain temperatures/temperature ranges. Therefore, being able to accurately measure temperature is an important skill in the lab!

Show question

Question

Which of the following is NOT a unit of temperature?

Show answer

Answer

Coloumbs

Show question

Question

What is the equation for converting between Fahrenheit and Celsius?

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Answer

$$(x^\circ F-32)*\frac{5}{9}$$

Show question

Question

What is the temperature in Celsius if you get a reading of 34.2 °F?

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Answer

$$1.2^\circ C$$

Show question

Question

How do you convert from Celsius to Kelvin?

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Answer

Add 273.15

Show question

Question

What is 76.2 °C in Kelvin?

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Answer

349.4 K

Show question

Question

What is the freezing point of water in Celsius?

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Answer

0 °C

Show question

Question

What is the most common thermometer in a lab setting?

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Answer

A probe thermometer

Show question

Question

How do mercury thermometers work?

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Answer

When mercury is heated, it expands, causing it to move up the thermometer and display the temperature. When it is cooled, it contracts, causing it to move downward.

Show question

Question

What are the steps for measuring temperature?

Show answer

Answer

1. (If digital) Turn on the thermometer, making sure it is measuring in the correct units and is calibrated
2. Place the thermometer inside the solution
3. Swirl the thermometer around the solution
4. Wait for the thermometer to reach the temperature of the species
5. Repeat steps 2-4 a few times to ensure the accuracy of the measurement

Show question

Question

How do you calibrate a thermometer?

Show answer

Answer

The best way to calibrate thermometers is by placing them in ice water for at least 30 seconds. The freezing point of water is 0 °C, so you adjust the thermometer until it reads that temperature.

Show question

Question

Why do you swirl the thermometer if it is in a solution?

Show answer

Answer

So the temperature is uniform

Show question

Question

True or False: If measuring something inside a beaker, the thermometer should touch the walls of the glass

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

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