What Material Makes Ice Melt Faster Paper, Plastic Or Aluminum Foil ?


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Aluminum foil makes ice melt faster than paper or plastic.  The specific heat capacity of aluminum is approximately 0.9 J/g degrees Celsius.  This means that the subatomic particles inside the atoms comprising a piece of aluminum are much more prone to movement than the subatomic particles in the atoms of paper or plastic.  In other words, aluminum is a better conductor of heat, and as such, it will make ice melt faster than paper or plastic.

Water has a specific heat capacity (cp) of 4.186 J/g degrees Celsius and the freezing point of water is 0 degrees Celsius.  If ice is placed on a piece of aluminum, conduction will take place between the atoms of ice and the atoms in the aluminum.  Because aluminum is such a good conductor of heat and it started this experiment at room temperature, its heat will flow into the ice, raising the velocity of the subatomic particles in the atoms of the ice, and the ice will melt.  On the other hand, neither paper nor plastic have a specific heat capacity that is as low as aluminum's.  Therefore, at room temperature, the subatomic particles inside the atoms of paper or plastic aren't moving as fast as the subatomic particles in the atoms of aluminum.  When the ice comes in contact with a piece of paper or plastic, the conduction between atoms in the different materials won't be as great, and the ice won't melt as quickly.

Keep a couple of things in mind while picturing all of this:

1) Heat (which is just the knietic energy of subatomic particles called thermal energy) always flows from "hot" things to "cold" things.

2) The lower the specific heat capacity is of an object, the less amount of energy it takes to heat up the object.  

3) Heat passes into and out of objects with lower specific heat capacities much easier than objects with higher specific heat capacities.

4) The formula for kinetic energy is KE = (0.5) (mass) (velocity squared); keep this formula in mind when you're thinking about the movement of subatomic particles.

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