You're Getting Warmer!


Greenhouse gas trials – hot stuff!



5-10 minutes
Environmental Science

Greenhouse gases are defined as gases in our atmosphere that absorb and radiate heat energy.  CO2 has some special properties that make it hot stuff.  Let’s take a closer look!


In PDQ 1 we learned about CO2 levels around us and how they are increasing at a regular rate, year after year, as we see in the data gathered at the Mauna Loa observatory and presented in the Keeling Curve.  Now that you understand global CO2 levels are increasing, and you have even learned to take CO2 readings yourself, let’s look at what effect CO2 has on our planet.  You will frequently hear the term global warming associated with CO2 – but how are they connected? 

The concept of the “Greenhouse  Effect” explains how CO2 and global warming are connected.  Essentially, like a greenhouse, light and heat can penetrate through the glass covering a greenhouse and some of it remains trapped inside.  If you have ever entered a greenhouse, you will immediately notice it is warmer and more humid than the outdoor air.  This is a good analogy as to what is happening on a much larger scale with CO2 and other greenhouse gases that are in our atmosphere.

Sunlight, including infrared radiation, penetrates our atmosphere and reaches the surface of the Earth.  Some of it is absorbed and some of it is bounced back towards space.   Greenhouse gases like CO2 trap some of this heat energy before it escapes to space, keeping our planetary temperature warm and comfortable. Global warming studies need to take into account the fact that increasing amounts of CO2 result in warmer global temperatures.

Let’s explore this further with databot™!

What You'll Need

  • IOS or Android smart device with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to connect to databot™
  • databot™ + Phypox App installed on your IOS or Android device
  • Container to hold databot™
  • databot™ temperature probe
  • Clear cellophane wrap to seal container


By completing this experiment and conducting the scientific observations associated with it you will master the following knowledge! Good luck science explorer!

  • Climate change is a complex topic with many factors influencing it.
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is:
    • An invisible and odorless gas.
    • Exhaled by human beings in the process of respiration.
    • Produced by a variety of manmade sources such as fossil fuels.
    • Considered a greenhouse gas that traps heat in our atmosphere
    • Increasing in concentration in our atmosphere each year, and has done so consistently since recording began in 1959.
    • Provides carbon for plants to use for building tissue through photosynthesis
  • Trees are a remarkable part of our climate ecosystem as they absorb and store carbon from CO2 in the air.
  • Scientific sensors allow us to measure the scientific world around us with better precision and accuracy.

Important Terms

Carbon:  A highly abundant, incredibly important chemical element with the symbol C that, due to its unique ability to form bonds, serves as a common element to all known life. All life that we know of we refer to as “carbon-based” and our human body is made up of approximately 18.5% carbon.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): A colorless, odorless gas comprised of oxygen and carbon that is naturally present in the air you breathe and is absorbed by plants in photosynthesis.

Carbon Sequestration: In response to CO2 driven temperature increases, carbon sequestration proposes the long term storage of carbon in solid or liquid form to remove it from the atmosphere. Trees and forests are a natural method of carbon sequestration as they convert CO2 into usable carbon through photosynthesis.  A tree trunk is a massive carbon storage vessel for example.

Climate: The weather over a prolonged period of time in a region is called climate

Climate Change: A change in global or regional weather patterns. Global climate change is linked to the steady increase of CO2, a gas that traps heat, in our atmosphere.

Deforestation: The permanent removal of forested areas and converting the land use to housing, farming, or other applications is called deforestation.  Deforestation should not be confused with the organized harvesting of forests, a renewable resource.

Global Warming: The ongoing rise in the average temperatures around the world is called global warming and is linked to an excess of greenhouse gases such as CO2.

Greenhouse Gases: Gases in our atmosphere that absorb and radiate heat energy are called greenhouse gases as they contribute to a global warming effect. Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and many others.

Photosynthesis: The chemical process in plants, driven by sunlight, that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and combines it with water to provide the carbon needed by the plant to form complex molecules that enable it to grow and repair itself.

Prep (5 Mins)

This experiment provides background on how CO2 absorbs and radiates heat and energy, then you will build a simple model “greenhouse” to see the greenhouse effect in action.

  • Review the important terms.
  • Carefully read the background section below on the experiment that was performed to test CO2 heat absorption. Since you don’t have the materials to conduct this experiment yourself, study the provided experiment summary,
  • Gather your materials.
  • Make sure your databot™ is fully charged and the temperature probe is plugged in as it will be inside the container for awhile.
  • Test your smart device connection and make sure the CO2 science experiments are installed in Phyphox. For this experiment you will only need temperature.
  • The materials you need to make a simple greenhouse demonstration are shown setup to the right – databot™, temperature probe, a bowl or container, and cellophane wrap.

Let’s go!

PDQ 2 (10 mins)


Shown here is a setup in which we used two databot™s in identical containers to see if we could demonstrate that CO2 traps more heat than regular air.

  • Both containers had a databot™ and temperature probe.
  • Into one container we poured CO2 that we produced using Baking Soda and Vinegar. 
  • We then trained an infrared heat lamp on the two containers, being careful to align the heat distribution as carefully as possible. Note: CO2 is particularly good at absorbing the infrared wavelengths of light from the sun.
  • We allowed both temperature probes enough time to adjust to room temperature and match before starting, then turned on the light and ran this test for a little over ten minutes.

At the end of ten minutes the container with the CO2 showed a temperature of 31 degrees Celsius and the non-CO2 container of 26.5 degrees Celsius, a difference of 4.5 degrees in approximately 10 minutes. 

This is a difficult experiment to replicate without strict controls as there are a number of variables that might be slightly off.  The angle of the heat lamp, the plastic material that the heat is penetrating, the CO2 leakage from the container, identical calibration of temperature probes, etc.

However, we know from the work of many scientists that CO2 does indeed absorb and hold heat and in effect, creates a layer of gas that prevents heat that bounces off our earth from escaping into space.

This is why our planet is warm and comfortable – without greenhouse gases our entire planet would be around Zero degrees F, so this layer of greenhouse gas is incredibly important to life as we know it.    


In this activity you will simulate the greenhouse effect through a simple experiment. You will monitor the temperature of a container in direct sunlight.  The first half of the experiment will be conducted with no greenhouse gas layer to trap heat.  The second half will be done with a layer of heat trapping material (plastic wrap) simulating our atmosphere.

  • Setup your open container with databot™ and a connected temperature probe.
  • Place it in direct sunlight.
  • Begin recording temperature and let it run for 10 minutes.  After this much time you should have reached a consistent temperature plateau.  Let the recording continue.
  • Now, seal the container with your plastic wrap, this simulates the layer of greenhouse gases which include CO2.  Be careful not to move the container or re-orient it in any way that might alter the sunlight it is receiving.
  • Continue recording for another 10 minutes and watch the data.
  • Screen capture your graph for discussion and presentation.

Deep Thoughts with databot™

  • Can you tell on your graph when the plastic wrap simulating our atmosphere is placed on the container?
  • What do you observe?
  • Did the temperature increase with the wrap?  By how much?
  • If you were to continue running the experiment and removed the cellophane after it was on for 10 minutes, what do you think would happen?
  • Conclude this activity by showing your screen capture of your experiment to a friend, teacher, or parent and explain in your own words what happened in the experiment. Include in your explanation how CO2 in our atmosphere acts like the plastic wrap.

What is happening in this graph of our databot™ experiment using the open and covered container? Can you tell when we covered the container with plastic wrap from looking at the graph?

Awesome possum science explorer.  You’ve learned a lot about Carbon Dioxide and how important it and other greenhouse gases are to keep us warm.  You’ve also learned that our steadily increasing levels of CO2 could be harmful – what if our planet gets too warm?  Let’s explore the CO2 challenge further with another experiment.   Ready?  Let’s go!

Great Work!

Now that you’ve mastered PDQ 1 and 2, are you ready for a bigger bite? Next stop, the Experiment!

Next Step, an Experiment!

Educator Info

Educator Info

  • Study the background information in the Overview and familiarize yourself with the learning objectives and terms for this activity.
  • Test the VOC reading in your app and conduct the PDQ yourself before conducting it for your class.
  • Review the guiding questions to help guide the student experience.
  • If students have potential respiratory problems such as asthma be extra careful with the closed container experiment.


  • Indoor air quality can affect your health and your ability to concentrate.
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is:
    • An invisible and odorless gas.
    • Exhaled by human beings in the process of respiration.
    • Is maintained at a healthy level in buildings through well designed ventilation (HVAC) systems.
  • Excessive levels of humidity in your indoor air (above 60% RH) can stimulate microbial activity and contribute to poor air quality.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds are emitted by a variety of chemicals into the air and can have an adverse affect on your health.
  • You can make your home and work environment safer by understanding the sources of VOCs and reducing your exposure to them.
  • Scientific sensors allow us to measure the scientific world around us with better precision and accuracy.

Climate Change Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Greenhouse Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

You’re Getting Warmer! by Robert O. Grover & Team databot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at