Temperature is a measure of the average hotness of an object. The hotter an object, the higher its temperature. As the temperature is raised, the atoms and molecules in an object move faster. The molecules in hot water move faster than the molecules in cold water. Remember that the heat energy stored in an object depends on both the temperature and the amount of the substance. A smaller amount of water will have less heat energy than a larger amount of water at the same temperature.

Increasing the temperature of a large body of water is one way to store heat energy for later use. A large container filled with salt water, called brine, may be used to absorb heat energy during the day when it is warm. This energy will be held in the salt water until the night when it is cooler. This stored heat energy can be released at night to warm a house or building. This is one way to store the sun’s heat energy until it is needed.

Solar ponds are used to store energy from the sun. Temperatures close to 100°C (212°F) have been achieved in solar ponds. Solar ponds contain a layer of fresh water above a layer of salt water. Because the salt water is heavier, it remains at the bottom of the pond-even as it gets quite hot. A black plastic bottom helps absorb solar energy from sunlight. The water on top serves to insulate and trap the heat in the pond.

In a fresh water pond, as the water on the bottom is heated from sunlight, the hot water becomes lighter and rises to the top of the pond. This convection or movement of hot water to the top tends to carry away excess heat. However, in a salt water pond, there is no convection so heat is trapped. In Israel a series of salt water, solar ponds were developed around the Dead Sea. The heat stored in these solar ponds has been used to run turbines and generate electricity.
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  • Two paper cups
  • Measuring cups
  • Hot water
  • Watch or clock
  • Sink
  • Refrigerator (with freezer compartment)

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Turn on the hot water faucet of a sink and wait several minutes until the water is hot. Be careful not to burn yourself with this hot water. Add one-fourth cup of this hot water to the first paper cup. Add one cup of hot water to the second paper cup. Place both of these cups in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator.

After thirty minutes check the water in each cup.  Return the cups to the freezer compartment and check them again after fifteen minutes. Keep checking the cups each fifteen minutes until the water in one of the cups is frozen.


Does the water in the cups freeze at the same time? Does the water in one of the cups freeze first? How long does it take for the water to freeze?


You will probably observe that the smaller amount of water in the first cup freezes prior to the larger amount of water in the second cup. Both cups were filled with the same hot water. However, even though the water in both cups was at the same temperature, they did not freeze at the same time. The amount of heat energy stored by the water depends on both the temperature and the amount of water.

We expect that the more heat energy stored in the cup, the longer it takes the water in the cup to freeze. Since one cup of water has more heat energy than one-fourth cup of water, it takes the larger amount of water longer to freeze.

Other Things to Try

Place one-half cup of hot tap water in one cup.  Place one-half cup of cool tap water in a second cup. Put both cups in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator and check them every fifteen minutes until the water freezes solid. Which cup of water do you think has more heat energy? Which cup of water do you think will freeze first?

Place one cup of water in one paper cup and one-fourth cup of water in a second paper cup. Put both cups in the freezer of a refrigerator and leave overnight. The next day remove both cups of frozen water. Set the two cups out in the room. Observe the time it takes each piece of ice to melt. Which piece of ice do you think will melt first? Which piece will require more heat energy to cause it to melt?


  1. What type of heat transfer is at work in a solar pond?
    1. Kinetic
    2. Conduction
    3. Potential
    4. Convection
    5. Radiation
  2. What units do we use to measure energy?
    1. Kilowatts
    2. Joules
    3. Newtons
    4. Kilowatt-hours
  3. Draw a diagram of a solar pond in the space below:


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