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What is a Cold Test?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Jan 24, 2024
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A cold test can refer to a number of different types of tests that can be performed on different objects and materials using cold temperatures. The way this cold is applied, and exactly what degree of coldness is used, depends on the object being tested and the desired results. This type of testing can be used on seeds to determine in what types of harsh conditions they could still germinate and flourish, as well as canola cooking oils to determine the likelihood of a batch of oil becoming cloudy. A cold test can also be used on a particular object or material to determine how strong the object will remain if used in cold temperatures.

The term “cold test” typically refers to any kind of test performed using colder than average temperatures to determine certain characteristics of an object or material. One common usage is to determine the hardiness of seeds that are likely to be planted in cold weather. This can be important in determining how well seeds might germinate when planted in early spring if a late frost should occur.

A cold test can be performed on seeds by wrapping them in a paper towel or otherwise placing them in non-sterile soil where other bacteria are present. These seeds are then kept at cold temperatures, often about 50° F (10° C) for seven days. The seeds are then placed in more ideal growing conditions of about 77° F (25° C) for another seven days and observed for germination and growth.

A cold test can also be performed on oil, such as canola oil, to determine the likelihood of a batch of oil becoming cloudy or separating. This separation can occur in a consumer household if the oil is stored at cold temperatures, resulting in the oil becoming cloudy or producing crystals in its container. A cold test for oil brings a sample to about 59° F (15° C) to observe how it reacts. This can be used to indicate the chances of cloudiness developing in a larger batch of oil.

Metal objects are often tested using a cold test to determine the strength of the metal used in constructing the object. This is typically done to ensure metal tools and items will not become brittle in cold weather, and is especially important for safety gear or tools designed for use in mountain climbing and cold weather rescue. A cold test can also be used on items being designed for use in outer space to demonstrate how the item might react to the cold environment of space. Such items are often tested at about -415° F (about -248° C). This is especially important for space telescopes, to accurately polish mirrors to reflect light properly once the mirrors contract in the cold of space.

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