Last edited 13 Oct 2016

Specific heat capacity

The specific heat capacity of a material is a measure of the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of 1kg of the material by one degree Celsius (or Kelvin).

Specific heat capacity is measured in J/kg°C where:

Heat energy (joules) = mass (kg) x specific heat capacity (J/kg°C) x temperature change (°C)

The typical specific heat capacities for some common materials are listed below:

  • Lead: 128 J/kg°C
  • Water: 4200 J/kg°C
  • Cast iron: 500 J/kg°C
  • Copper: 385 J/kg°C
  • Aluminium: 913 J/kg°C
  • Brick / block: 840 J/kg°C
  • Concrete: 880 J/kg°C
  • Marble: 880 J/kg°C
  • Steel: 480 J/kg°C
  • Timber: 1200 J/kg°C

Specific heat capacity is one of the properties that contributes to the thermal mass of a material, that is, how much heat it can store. Effective thermal mass requires; high specific heat capacity, high density and a thermal conductivity that means heat flows into and out of the material are aligned with the thermal cycle of the occupied space. Materials such as concrete and masonry tend to have a useful thermal mass, whereas timber is too slow an absorber of heat, and steel has a too high a thermal conductivity.

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