Campus Units

Mechanical Engineering

Document Type


Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Scientific Reports



First Page





Following a recent trend of scientific studies on artwork, we study here the thermodynamics of a thermometer made of zisha ceramic, related to the Chinese tea culture. The thermometer represents a boy who “urinates” shortly after hot water is poured onto his head. Long jetting distance is said to indicate that the water temperature is hot enough to brew tea. Here, a thermodynamic model describes the jetting phenomenon of that pee-pee boy. The study demonstrates how thermal expansion of an interior air pocket causes jetting. A thermodynamic potential is shown to define maximum jetting velocity. Seven optimization criteria to maximize jetting distance are provided, including two dimensionless numbers. Predicted jetting distances, jet durations, and temperatures agree very well with infrared and optical measurements. Specifically, the study confirms that jetting distances are sensitive enough to measure water temperature in the context of tea brewing. Optimization results show that longer jets are produced by large individuals, with low body mass index, with a boyhood of medium size inclined at an angle π/4. The study ends by considering the possibility that ceramic jetting artifacts like the pee-pee boy might have been the first thermometers known to mankind, before Galileo Galilei’s thermoscope.


This article is published as Lee, Vincent, and Daniel Attinger. "Thermodynamics and historical relevance of a jetting thermometer made of Chinese zisha ceramic." Scientific reports 6 (2016): 28609. doi:10.1038/srep28609. Posted with permission.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Copyright Owner

The Authors



File Format