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ABSTRACT

Many factors affect river health. In this investigation the hows and whys of the effects that temperature and
turbulence have on the concentrations of oxygen dissolved in water have been investigated. It has been
hypothesised that when the temperature of a body of water is increased, the oxygen levels in it are reduced.
And when the turbulence of water is increased, the oxygen levels must go up. The experiment was conducted
by using a DO probe to measure the dissolved oxygen in the water after different samples of water were
heated to various temperatures and another experiment was conducted by subjecting different samples of
water to various levels of turbulence. In both cases the dissolved oxygen levels went down in a parabolic
manner. By completing these experiments, the first hypothesis (about temperature) was proved correct, while
the other hypothesis (about turbulence) was refuted.
RATIONALE FOR INVESTIGATION

Rivers and waterways are very important to people for economical and agricultural growth, transport, and
much more. Many ecosystems and animals also rely on rivers to provide for food and a secure place to live.
So it is clear that taking care of our rivers is a significant issue. Many factors can have drastic effects on river
health including temperature of the water, salinity, turbidity, phosphate and nitrate ions and dissolved oxygen.
In this experiment we will investigate the effects that temperature and turbulence have on the levels of
dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water.

Temperature can have drastic effects on the dissolved oxygen levels in water. Water temperature regulates
ecosystem functioning both directly through physiological effects on organisms, and indirectly, as a
consequence of habitat loss (Water on the Web 2004). This may cause some changes to the photosynthetic and
respiratory processes occurring in the water, causing changes in the levels of DO present in the water. But
temperature also directly affects the concentrations of DO in the water. Turbulence also has an effect on the
amount of DO present in the water. The churning and mixing of the water allows for oxygen from the air to
get in and dissolve, providing more oxygen for aerobic organisms to perform respiration.

Dissolved oxygen (DO) is vital to the health of the river as it allows for respiration in aquatic animals like
fish and in plants. It is a very important indicator of a water body's ability to support aquatic life. Oxygen gets
into water by diffusion from the surrounding air, by aeration (rapid movement), and as a waste product of
photosynthesis in aquatic plants (KY Water Watch).

Total DO concentrations in water should not exceed 110% as concentrations above this level can be harmful
to aquatic life. Excessive dissolved oxygen in water may cause fish to suffer from "gas bubble disease",
although this is a very rare event. The bubbles block blood flow through the blood vessels, causing death.
Adequate dissolved oxygen is necessary for good water quality. Oxygen is a necessary element to all forms of
life. Natural stream purification processes require adequate oxygen levels in order to provide for aerobic life
forms. As DO levels in water drop below 5.0 mg/l, aquatic life is put under stress. The lower the
concentration, the greater this stress. Oxygen levels that remain below 1-2 mg/l for a few hours can result in
mass fish kills (KY Water Watch). Dissolved oxygen levels have to be kept at a balance. Many factors affect
this balance including temperature, exposure to sunlight, turbidity, turbulence, pH, salinity and biological
oxygen demand. What implications can these have on aquatic life and river health? One way to find out would
be to experiment which is what we have done here.

RESEARCH PROPOSAL

Research question: how and why do the temperature and turbulence of water affect the concentrations of
dissolved oxygen (DO) in it?
Aim: to investigate the relationships between DO and temperature and DO and turbulence.
Hypotheses: the higher the temperature of a body of water, the lower the concentration of dissolved oxygen in
it.
AND
The higher the amount of turbulence in water, the higher the concentration of dissolved oxygen in it.
JUSTIFICATION OF HYPOTHESIS

Temperature and turbulence can greatly affect the levels of dissolved oxygen in water. Water temperature is
the measure of the degree of hotness or coldness of a body of water and unnatural changes in water
temperature can be an indicator of water quality. Temperature itself can cause almost the most change in DO
levels than most other environmental factors. Temperature affects many processes in the water including
photosynthesis and aerobic respiration, and the growth, reproduction, metabolism and the mobility of
organisms. The rates of biochemical reactions double when temperature is increased by 10oC within the given
tolerance range of an organism (OzCoasts, 2008). Aquatic organisms can only survive within a narrow
temperature range and if the temperature goes beyond this range, it may compromise the organism’s ability to
survive. And of course, aquatic organisms have a large influence on the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide
in water. Through respiration, organisms consume oxygen to give out carbon dioxide and through
photosynthesis plants reintroduce oxygen into the water by consuming carbon dioxide. So if the survival of
these organisms was threatened in any way, this may have an effect on the health of our waterways.

However, temperature also has a more direct effect on DO concentrations in water. The higher the
temperature of a body of water, the lower the amount of oxygen dissolved in it. The solubility of oxygen at
0oC is about twice its solubility at 30oC. Gases that dissolve in solvents like water release heat as they dissolve
(Water on the Web 2004). An equation for the process of dissolving can be written as:

This process will continue until the water is completely saturated with oxygen. At this point gases will still
dissolve into the water, but will be balanced by the gases that leave the solution. If heat is added to the
solution, gas will be released in an endothermic reaction as it cannot dissolve anymore.

Le Chatelier's principle states that the solubility of a gas will increase as heat is lost in a system and will
decrease as heat is gained (Water on the Web, 2004).

Hydrogen bonding also has an effect on the way that gases dissolve in
water. Hydrogen bonds are chemical bonds that form between molecules
containing a hydrogen atom bonded to a strongly electromagnetic atom
(that which attracts electrons), in the case of water, this being oxygen
(refer to Figure 1).Because the oxygen atom attracts the electrons from the
hydrogen atom, they form a very polar molecule where one end is slightly
negatively charged and one end is slightly positively charged. Hydrogen
bonds form between these molecules because the negative and positive
ends of one molecule are attracted to those of another molecule (Microsoft
Encarta, 2006). There are pockets of air between these molecules and
oxygen atoms can easily fit into them. However, when the water
molecules are heated, they gain energy, shaking and vibrating in the
process. This causes the air pockets to lose their ability to hold the oxygen
atoms. So an increase in temperature reduces the amount of oxygen in Figure 1 – hydrogen bonding
water. (Microsoft Encarta 2006).
Turbulence also has a substantial effect on the levels of oxygen dissolved in a body of water. Turbulence
refers to the rapid and irregular movement of water due to physical forces such as wind, tides, wave action
and currents. Because the concentrations of oxygen are very different between the atmosphere and water,
diffusion occurs consistently between these two mediums. Water turbulence can increase DO concentrations
in water by increasing the surface area available for mixing between the water and atmosphere. The
movement and churning of the water makes the water jump and causes irregularity in the water surface. This
momentarily provides a little more water surface area for which oxygen can dissolve into. This thereby
increases the rate of diffusion (Water on the Web, 2004). As such, in theory, the higher the amount of
turbulence in a body of water, the higher the concentrations of dissolved oxygen in it.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN

Temperature on DO

• 6 experiments are set up – 5 manipulated temperatures and 1 at room temperature


• All samples of water are at different temperatures
• Measure the amount of DO present in the water after heating or cooling to specific temperatures.

Dependant variable: concentration of dissolved oxygen in water


Independent variable: temperature of water
Controlled variables: type of water used, size of beaker used.

Turbulence on DO

• 6 experiments with varying periods of subjection to turbidity being conducted


• Measure DO levels in water after each experiment

Dependant variable: concentration of dissolved oxygen in water


Independent variable: time for which water is subjected to turbulence
Controlled variables: type of water used, size of beaker used, speed of stirring on magnetic stirrer.

These experiments are controlled and mostly unbiased. The type of water used was the same so that the
chance of different types of water containing different minerals and hosting different amounts of oxygen is
rules out. The size and shape of the beakers was the same as well. This ensures that the water has the same
surface area to allow oxygen to get into it in all the experiments. In the experiment where the effect of
turbulence on DO was investigated, the speed at which the magnetic stirrer spun the water was kept constant.
This was to ensure that different speeds wouldn’t cause different steepness of the whirlpool caused by the
spinning of the water. If this steepness was different, there would either be more or less surface area available
for oxygen to get in.
METHOD

Materials: - 12 beakers
- Aluminium foil
- Dissolved oxygen probe
- Hot plate/ Bunsen burner
- Magnetic stirrer
- Normal tap water or distilled water if desired (water must kept in a bucket or container for a
day or overnight so that excess oxygen doesn’t get in through churning of the water from coming out the tap
or water bottle.)
- Stop watch
- Thermometer
- Tongs
- Tripod Stand and wire gauze if using Bunsen burner.

Method: temperature on DO
• In a beaker pour approx. 200mL of water.
• Measure the temperature and dissolved oxygen in this water. This will be the control or [DO]* at room
temperature.
• In 5 more beakers pour approx. 200mL of water.
• Cool down one beaker of water to 5o.
• Measure the dissolved oxygen in this sample of water.
• Heat the other beakers of water to 40o, 60o, 80o and 100o.
• Measure the dissolved oxygen in each of these samples at once using the DO probe.
• If you cannot measure the DO in these samples immediately, then cover the beakers with aluminium
foil so that no more oxygen can get in or out.
• Record the data.

Turbulence on DO
• In a beaker pour 200mL of water
• Measure the temperature and dissolved oxygen in this water. This will be the control sample or [DO]
after no turbulence.
• In 5 more beakers pour 200mL of water.
• Use the magnetic stirrer to stir (cause turbulence in) the water in one beaker for 1 minute.
• When turning off the magnetic stirrer, do not turn the knob on it. Switch it off at the wall so that when
repeating the experiment, a different level of turbulence will not be supplied.
• Measure the dissolved oxygen in this sample of water.
• Do the same for the other beakers of water but subject these to 2, 3, 4 and 5 minutes of turbulence.
• Also record the temperatures of the water samples, just in case the change in concentration of DO is
caused by change in temperature.
• Cover the beakers with foil so that no more oxygen can get in if you cannot measure the DO
immediately.
• Measure the dissolved oxygen in each of these samples using the DO probe.
• Record the data.
* [DO] means “concentration of DO”
RESULTS

Experiment 1: the effects of temperature on dissolved oxygen.

Table 1: Table showing the effect of


temperature on DO Figure 2 – Graph showing the effect of temperature on
Dissolved dissolved oxygen
Temperature (oC) Oxygen (parts
Dissolved Oxygen - Temperature
per million)
o
5C 8.9

Dissolved Oxygen (ppm)


16.1oC (room 10
9
temperature) 6.3 8
17.5oC (room 7
6
temperature) 4.7 5
4
40oC 3.9 3
2
60oC 2.8 1
80oC (measured at 0
6.4
15.7oC)

p.
p.

*)
*)
*
*
5*

40

60
m
m

.0
.7
100oC (measured at

te

te

16
15
6

om
om

at
16.0oC)

at
ro

ro

d
ed

re
*C
*C

su
su
.5
.1

ea
ea
16

17

(m
(m

0*
*
80

10
Tem perature (oC)

Experiment 2: the effects of turbulence on dissolved oxygen.

Table 2: Table showing the effect of turbulence on DO


Turbulence Dissolved
Temperature
(time in minutes Oxygen (parts
(oC)
and seconds) per million)
0 min 9 15.3o
1min 8.8 15.4o
2min 8 15.3o
3min 7.3 15.4o
4min 6.6 15.6o
5min 10sec 6.5 15.9o

Figure 3 – Graph showing the effect of Turbulence on DO


Dissolved Oxygen Trial 2 Turbulence

10
9
Dissolved Oxygen (ppm)

8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
0 min 1min 2min 3min 4min 5min
10sec
Tim e (min)
DISCUSSION

Experiment 1: the effect of temperature on dissolved oxygen.

In this experiment, as was predicted, the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water fell as the temperature was
increased (refer to Table 1). As the temperature of the water was increased, the concentration of dissolved
oxygen fell in a slightly quadratic curve, as shown in Figure 2. However, this trend is not followed as we
reach the trials with water at 80oC and 100oC. These values go back up to 6.4 ppm (parts per million) and 6
ppm respectively. This may have been because the dissolved oxygen in these two trials was measured at room
temperature. This had to be done because the DO probe does not work in temperatures above 60 oC. To reduce
any chances of oxygen getting into the beakers, they were covered immediately with aluminium foil. The next
day when the water had cooled down to room temperature, the DO was measured. A hole was pierced in the
aluminium foil to allow the probe to be placed into the water. At this point it is possible that oxygen got into
the beaker and dissolved into the water. This may have been the reason why these two trial values are in such
contrast with the rest of the experiment. However, disregarding these two values the hypothesis was proved
right. The concentrations of oxygen dissolved in water do decrease as temperature of water is increased.

To improve this experiment instead of doing just 6 trials, more trials could have been conducted. As you can
see in Table 1, the two room temperatures used (16.1 oC and 17.5oC) are very different from each other. This
does not seem normal, as there should not be so much difference between samples that are only 1.4o apart. So
there is obviously some irregularity with this. So in an improved experiment, we could not use the room
temperatures and instead use 5o, 10o, 15o, 20o … 100o etc. This would provide a wider database to look at and
it would be easier to plot a graph. Also, some of the trials were done on different days. The weather and
climatic factors like humidity could have changed in these days. It is also possible that there were slightly
different atmospheric pressures on the different days. This could have accounted for some error in the
experiment. Perhaps, the experiment could have been more valid if distilled water had been used instead. This
may have prevented any chance of any impurities like Iron or other gases in the water from corrupting the
experiment.

From the experiment conducted, we can clearly see that temperature has a substantial effect on the dissolved
oxygen in water. Other related experiments could be conducted like the effect that pressure has on DO levels,
the effects that different minerals present in the water have on the DO levels in the water and other such
experiments. With future research we can investigate ways that we can reduce the effects that temperature
have on river health or even reduce the amount of hot effluent dumped into the rivers.

Experiment 2: effect of turbulence on dissolved oxygen.

In this experiment the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water decreased as the levels or amount of turbulence
was increased (refer to Table 2). As the periods for which the water was subjected to turbulence were
increased, the concentrations of dissolved oxygen fell in a slightly quadratic curve (refer to Figure 3). In the
first minute, not much change in the DO levels occurred. However, from the second minute to the fourth
minute, the water experienced great change in DO levels. However, after the fourth minute, there was not as
much drastic change. So there is a limit to which the oxygen can escape the water. But seeing as the oxygen
concentration is going down instead of up this is a clear contradiction of the original hypothesis that stated
that as the turbulence goes up, the oxygen dissolved in water goes down. This may have been due many
things.
The magnetic stirrer is a device that employs the use of a magnet that spins around very fast to twist the water
in the beaker into a whirlpool. It is possible that as the water spun around at high speeds, the pressure within
the water was so high that gases could not dissolve into the water anymore and had to instead escape it. This
could explain why the levels of oxygen dissolved in the water kept going down as time was increased.
Another reason could have been that the beakers of water were not covered immediately after each
experiment. This could allow for more oxygen to go in or out of the water, jeopardising the validity of the
experiment. Also, as stated in the previous experiment, some of these trials were conducted on different days.
This might have had an effect on the experiment since climatic factors such as humidity could have differed
on the separate days.

This experiment could have been improved by conducting more trials so that we could verify the results. Also,
steps could be taken to reduce the effect of temperature on the experiment. As you can see from Table 2,
temperature seems to have increased slightly over the last two trials. If the temperature of all the water could
be kept constant, then this might increase the validity of the experiment. The magnetic stirrer does not seem to
be an ideal instrument for ‘stirring’ the water since it makes the water into a whirlpool rather than churning it.
Perhaps, if an air pump or other such devices were used, the experiment could have been better.

From the experiment conducted, we can say that turbulence has a considerable effect on the dissolved oxygen
in water. Further investigations could be conducted later using different machines to provide turbulence and
see if these might have an effect on the dissolved oxygen. Other investigations could also be conducted
considering the difference between highly turbulent and stagnant waters and the effect this may have on plant
growth in the water.

In these experiments we have investigated the relationships between temperature and turbulence and the
levels of dissolved oxygen in river water. The experiments were conducted in controlled environments to
improve their validity such as a constant atmospheric pressure, a constant temperature in the turbulence
experiment and the same DO probe used for all experiments. The results support the theory that an increase in
temperature will reduce the oxygen dissolved in water, but contradict the theory that an increase in turbulence
will lead to an increase in dissolved oxygen concentrations. More research has to be done to prove these
results but it is still clear to see that many factors can easily affect the health of our rivers.
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