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AoS 1 How thermal effects can be explained

Full Day
Book Program
Year Levels
Unit 1 — What ideas explain the physical world?


Australia is currently among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases per person globally. These gases lead to global warming by enhancing the natural greenhouse effect. As we become more aware of the impact of these gases, we are looking at ways to reduce these emissions. In Australia, the largest source of emissions is the generation of electricity by the burning of coal. In addition to the emission of greenhouse gases, the burning of coal also emits other dangerous air, water and land pollutants.

Ecolinc’s award winning building was designed using ecologically sustainable design (ESD) principles. The building comprises energy efficient features such as natural cooling, ‘hot box’ heating technology, large, double glazed windows which allow natural light to enter while reducing heat transfer, low power lighting, solar hot water, and also solar panels which generate electricity.  Ecolinc uses renewable energy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.

Thermal Imaging (TI) is an increasingly common technique for visualising the temperature variations of an object or its surroundings in a number of contexts.  It finds widespread use in the building industry, particularly in the areas of retro-fitting existing buildings with energy efficient features, and inspecting the construction of new buildings, by identifying the areas where the greatest amount of heat loss is occurring.  In order to use these devices and interpret the data correctly, a good understanding of thermal heat transfer is essential.

Prior Knowledge

While this program can be accommodated early in the Unit before much material is covered, it is preferable that the kinetic particle model, the three basic modes of heat transfer, and zeroth and first laws of thermodynamics be covered prior to undertaking the program.

Learning Intentions

In this program students will:

  • Identify and explain heat transfer mechanisms in a variety of contexts.
  • Interpret TI camera data, and describe the phenomena they produce.
  • Describe the ESD features of the Ecolinc building and the principles by which they function.
  • Interpret and compare data from scale models incorporating variations in ESD features and comment on its implications.


  • Become familiar with Ecolinc’s TI cameras by performing qualitative heat transfer experiments.
  • Calibrating the TI cameras for known temperature and emissivity sources.
  • Investigate efficiency of light globes and appliances using TI cameras and other instrumentation.
  • Explore the ESD features of Ecolinc’s building.
  • Evaluate the performance of the ESD features with the aid of thermal imaging.
  • Analyse design options of the Ecolinc building by comparison of simulation data.

VCE links

Outcome 1: Issues related to thermodynamics:

  • possibility of homes being built that do not require any active heating or cooling at all
  • use of thermal imaging and infrared thermography in locating heating losses in buildings and/or system malfunctions; cost savings implications.