Can you boil water in a paper cup? (1 Reason to try)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you boil water in a paper cup?” We will discuss whether it is a good idea to boil water in a paper cup. We will also discuss the molecular science related to boiling water and the plastic cup.

Can you boil water in a paper cup?

No, it is neither recommended nor practically possible to boil water in a paper cup. It is, however, theoretically possible to boil water in a paper cup but it would take a long time. 

The paper cup does not make a good utensil to boil water because it is a poor conductor of heat.

In old times, people used leaves to boil water which is also a poor conductor of heat. The heat energy that is provided to water comes from the air rather than through the paper cup. The leaf cup or in our case the paper cup does the job of holding the water, while most of the heat travels to it through the air. 

If you use a metal pot or pan, the metal or steel assists the water in providing the heat directly from the flame hence works better in heating the water. 

What happens to the paper cup if you use it to boil water?

To boil water you need a temperature of 100 C or 212 Fahrenheit. Water takes in energy until it is enough for the water molecules to escape which is after it attains its boiling point. The liquid retains the temperature until it becomes hot enough to evaporate; the temperature stays steady at 100 C or 212 Fahrenheit until all of it has evaporated.

The burning temperature of paper is 233 degrees celsius or 451 Fahrenheits. While the temperature of water stays around 100, the paper does not get as much of a chance to burn. 

Paper burns at a range of temperatures starting at 451 Fahrenheit.

The impact that heat will have on your paper cup is that it would cause it to turn brown. The paper cup does not burn or melt because the paper is made of cellulose. 

How to boil water in a paper cup?

The procedure written below is merely a fun experiment. It is not meant to be a reliable source of boiled water. 

Follow the steps below to successfully boil water in a paper cup.

  1. Turn the burner on medium heat.
  2. Take your paper cup and fill it with water.
  3. Hold the cup close to the flame about six inches away with the help of tongs. The cup will soon become too hot for you to hold.
  4. Observe what happens. Either the paper burns or the water will boil.

You will see that the water would boil while the paper does burn to some extent. It will have black marks on the circular rim due to the heat. 

As the paper is a poor conductor of heat, water gains the heat emitted to the surrounding from the heating element. If you use a metal pot or pan the metal or steel assists the water in providing the heat directly from the flame. However, the heat energy that is provided to water comes from the air rather than the paper cup. The process is called convection where heat energy travels through the air in contrast to conduction that occurs through solids. 

How to boil water safely?

To boil water, you can use any metal or steel vessel. You can also use a kettle to boil water. 

If you do not have a stovetop you can even use the microwave to boil it. Any kind of pot works for boiling water or even use a tin can if you do not have a pot at hand.

You can use a grill or open flame to boil water, just make sure to heat the water enough that it reaches a temperature of 100 Celsius. Let the water simmer for around 2 minutes and then bring it off the heat.

 For the water to boil quickly, make sure to cover it with a lid. Covering retains heat inside the utensils and builds up pressure which helps to boil the water faster. 

Drinking boiled water kills a majority of the pathogens and makes it safe to drink. Boiling kills many bacteria, viruses, and pathogens, such as cholera, typhoid, giardia, and cryptosporidium. The bacteria and viruses do not survive past 160 degrees Fahrenheit which is way before the water boils. When you boil water it will kill a majority of the microorganisms that are capable of making you sick.

In this brief guide, we answered the question, “Can you boil water in a paper cup?” We discussed whether it is a good idea to boil water in a paper cup. We also discussed the molecular science related to boiling water and the plastic cup.

Citations

https://www.education.com/science-fair/article/boiling-water-paper-cup/