Can a compost pile spontaneously combust? What is the temperature created in the core and on the surface of a compost pile?
Heat and Thermodynamics
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, although in many processes energy is transferred to the environment as heat.
Energy is exchanged or transformed in all chemical reactions and physical changes of matter
Students know chemical processes can either release (exothermic) or absorb (endothermic) thermal energy.
Create two separate compost piles each made with different components and track internal temperature over time.
Compost material - leaves, sticks, sawdust, bread, soil and water.
Temperature of the core of the compost pile
Compost pile with leaves, sawdust, soil and minimal water. (Compost pile A)
Compost pile with leaves, sticks, bread, soil and water. (Compost pile B)
2 - Styrofoam coolers
very dry leaves
small dry sticks
loaf of stale bread
6 - temperature probes
Build one compost pile in each cooler. Place a temperature probe in center of pile, on surface of pile and on the outside of each cooler. Record temperature daily. After temperature falls, manipulate one variable in the compost pile to see what causes the temperature to rise again.
Sample data and graphs
Photographs and Movies