Last edited 11 Nov 2016

Specific heat capacity

The term ‘specific heat’ (or specific heat capacity) refers to the heat energy per unit mass (typically 1 kg) required to raise the temperature of a substance by one degree Celsius.

The higher the specific heat capacity of a substance, the more energy is required to raise its temperature.

Specific heat capacity (c) in J (joules) / kg °C can be calculated as:

c = E/m θ

Where:

  • E is the energy transfer in J.
  • m is the mass of the substances in kg.
  • θ is the temperature change in °C.

Some examples of the specific heat capacities of different substances are listed below:

  • Aluminum 902 J/kg°C
  • Copper 385 J/kg°C
  • Gold 129 J/kg°C
  • Iron 450 J/kg°C
  • Lead 128 J/kg°C
  • NaCl 864 J/kg°C
  • Oxygen 918 J/kg°C
  • Water 4181 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. Water, which has a very high specific heat capacity, is very effective at storing heat.

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