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Learn How Thermoses Work!

Back in the day, thermoses were all the rage. Learn how they worked!

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Photo: alexkerhead (Flickr)

Here is a vintage lunchbox and thermos. A thermos keeps liquid at a consistent temperature.

These days kids have styrofoam to keep soup hot. But back in the day, there were thermoses. One of their drawbacks was that since their insides were made of glass they were pretty easily broken when dropped. The popping sound they made when they broke was cool to kids, but then we weren’t the ones who had to buy a new one.

How Does A Thermos Work?

A thermos keeps things hot not because it generates heat like a radiator, but because it doesn’t allow heat to escape.

What’s the best way to prevent heat from escaping? Insulation. You can wrap the hot thing up in a material that doesn’t conduct heat well. Then the soup won’t be able to cool off easily, because the heat can’t escape into its surroundings.

What’s A Good Insulator?

How about air? Air is, in fact, a pretty good insulator, which is why styrofoam keeps things hot. It’s full of air.

But even better than that would be a vacuum. Because there’s nothing in it to heat up, heat can’t conduct through it. A vacuum is the best insulator of all, and that’s the principle behind a thermos.

A Vacuum

A thermos is a flask with a double-walled container inside it. Air is removed from the space in-between the walls. Now heat can’t escape from the soup; it’s surrounded by a vacuum.

And to further help hold in heat the inside walls are silvered to reflect heat rays which try to escape.

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