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Demonstrate how resistance in an electrical conduit can produce heat

Suitable For

Grade 5



Time Required

 <2 Days



What’s it about?

The production of heat when electricity passes through a wire can be very useful such as in light bulbs, electrical heaters or even bread toasters. This heat build-up caused by the ‘resistance’ in an electrical conduit, can also be very undesirable at times such as in motors or TV-sets. A high resistance material called ‘nichrome’ is used as the heating elements in toasters.

Nichrome is made of nickel, iron and chromium and warms up very quickly due to its high electrical resistance. Pass electrical current through a ‘nichrome’ wire to test if the side closest to the negative pole of a battery heats up before the side connected to the positive terminal, in the following science experiment:

Topics covered

Resistance, Electrons, In Series

What will I need?


Procedure (Method)

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

How does it work?

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

Electricity ‘flows’ or moves through some materials better than in others. The measurement of how well or how poor a material conducts electricity is called its ‘resistance’. Resistance in a wire depends on how thick or how long it is, and what it is made of. In an electrical current, the resistance causes friction and the friction causes heat. The higher the resistance, the hotter it can get.

Electricity or ‘electrons’ always flows from the negative terminal of a battery, which has an excess of electrons, to the positive terminal of the battery which is lacking electrons. In this science experiment, when electrical current is passed through a ‘nichrome’ wire coated with wax, the side of the nichrome wire connected to the negative terminal of the battery heats up first. This is due to the resistance and the ‘build-up’ of electrons wanting to pass through the wire to the positive side.

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