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Name: Steven 
Status: Student
Grade: K-3
Location: N/A
Country: United States
Date: June 2006

How does bubble wrap reduce thermal energy transfer?

Air, especially when it is not free to circulate, is a poor heat conductor. The idea behind many types of insulation -- not just bubble wrap -- is to trap the air so that it is not free to circulate. That is what bubble wrap does. It traps the air in the bubbles so that it cannot circulate, except within each cell. The same idea applies to foam cups used to serve hot beverages. If you look at such a cup with a magnifying glass -- crush it so you can see inside the walls of the cup -- you will see that it is made up of tiny air bubbles too. This prevents the hot air (or steam) from moving easily from the hot liquid to your hand.

Vince Calder


Whenever you go into a room, or outside for example, your body begins heating the air around it to about the same temperature as you are. This is why wind feels cool, as the air immidiately around you is constantly being refreshed, and must be reheated. Warm clothes, such as a fluffy sweater, trap the air right next to your body so it is not being replaced so fast.

Bubblewrap, like you asked about, actually contains the same small amounts of air in tiny plastic bubbles. This prevents the air from blowing or floating away as it is heated. Since air does not conduct the heat very well itself, that heat gets trapped right there with the bubble wrap.

Ryan Belscamper

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