Burn a Peanut

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this activity, learners burn a peanut, which produces a flame that can be used to boil away water and count the calories contained in the peanut. Learners use a formula to calculate the calories in a peanut and then differentiate between food calories and physicist calories as well as calories and joules.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • fresh peanuts
  • 20 mL or larger test tubes (Larger tubes are better)
  • test tube holders (e.g. ring stand with test tube clamp)
  • 10 mL of water (Measure it with a graduated cylinder)
  • large paper clips
  • aluminum plates
  • sticky tape
  • matches
  • scale


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • Health and Nutrition
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Variables and Expressions
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
    • Number and Operations
      • Multiples and Factors
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
      • Heat Transfer
    • Energy
      • Energy and Power
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Doherty, Paul


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 2000