Physical Chemistry Lesson of the Day – Heat Capacity

The heat capacity of a system is the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of the system by 1 degree.  Heat is measured in joules (J) in the SI system, and heat capacity is dependent on each substance.  To make heat capacities comparable between substances, molar heat capacity or specific heat capacity are often used.

  • Molar heat capacity is the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of 1 mole of a substance by 1 degree.
  • Specific heat capacity is the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of 1 gram of a substance by 1 degree.

For example, over the range 0 to 100 degrees Celsius (or 273.15 to 373.15 degrees Kelvin), 4.18 J of heat on average is required to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Kelvin.  Thus, the average specific heat capacity of water in that temperature range is 4.18 J/(g·K).

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