Wire Glows Under Water


The apparatus set up with a video camera. See video below.
The apparatus set up with a
video camera. See video below.

A wire glows orange while submerged in water.



Principles Illustrated

Transfer of thermal energy. Thermal conductivity. Energy transformations.

The wire can be hot enough to glow because it is surrounded by a vapour layer. When the current is turned off, the water reaches the wire and a hiss is heard as the wire cools rapidly. A similar effect can be observed when an object is placed in liquid nitrogen and a vapour layer forms. The boiling is slow until the object cools somewhat, and then the liquid reaches the object the boiling suddenly increases while the object is cooled to liquid nitrogen temperature.


Download video (right-click and “save link as”): Cooling-wire.m4v

NCEA & Science Curriculum

Can be used as a starting point for investigations in PHYS 1.1, PHYS 1.2.


Close-up of the beaker and electrical connections.
Close-up of the beaker and
electrical connections.

Boil the water with a flame. Connect the current source (here a battery) to the nichrome wire and observe. Some adjustment of the current and wire length will be necessary.

Larger photos


Beaker and electrical connections


Use only a low voltage, current-limited power supply or battery! There is a fairly large quantity of boiling water and a flame involved. Constant supervision is necessary.

Individual teachers are responsible for safety in their own classes. Even familiar demonstrations should be practised and safety-checked by individual teachers before they are used in a classroom.

Related Resources

Teaching Resources

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This teaching resource was developed with support from

The MacDiarmid Institute
Faculty of Science, Victoria University of Wellington
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington


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