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What is a “Convection Cell”?

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    Colorado State University

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What is a “Convection Cell”?

In this demonstration, learners can observe a number of small convection cells generated from a mixture of aluminum powder and silicon oil on a hot plate. This demonstration helps learners visualize a method that the atmosphere uses to transport energy from one area to another. Convection cells play a role in thunderstorms and other weather phenomena as well as occur in oceans and on the surface of the Sun.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per student)

  • One hot plate
  • One round metal fry pan or cake pan
  • Silicon oil
  • Aluminum powder
  • Rubber spatula


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
      • Atmosphere
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
      • Heat Transfer
      • Thermodynamics and Entropy
    • Energy
    • Motion and Forces
    • States of Matter
      • Gases
      • Changes of Phase
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, Little Shop of Physics, ©2009


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