Specific Heat vs Heat Capacity: Difference and Comparison

Specific heat and heat capacity both relate to the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a substance. Specific heat refers to the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one unit mass of a substance by one degree Celsius, while heat capacity is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of an entire sample by one degree Celsius.

Key Takeaways

  1. Specific heat is the amount required to raise the temperature of one gram of a substance by one degree Celsius.
  2. Heat capacity is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of an object by one degree Celsius.
  3. While specific heat is a property of a substance, heat capacity depends on the mass and composition of an object.

Specific Heat vs Heat Capacity

Heat capacity is required to raise a substance by a certain amount. Specific heat is the amount required to raise a substance’s temperature by a certain amount, measured in (J/kg/K). It is an intensive property, independent of the amount of substance being considered.

Specific Heat vs Heat Capacity

Comparison Table

FeatureSpecific Heat (c)Heat Capacity (C)
DefinitionAmount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of 1 unit mass of a substance by 1 degree (Celsius or Kelvin)Total amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of a certain amount of material by 1 degree
Depends onMaterial typeMaterial type and mass
Units (SI)J/kg⋅K (Joules per kilogram per Kelvin)J/K (Joules per Kelvin)
Information providedTells you how much heat a material needs to warm up per unit massTells you the total heat needed to warm up a specific amount of material
ExampleWater: 4.18 J/g°C = 4184 J/kg⋅K100g of water at 20°C needs 16.7 kJ to reach 30°C (C = mcΔT)

What is Specific Heat?

Specific heat, denoted by the symbol C, is a fundamental property of a substance that quantifies its ability to absorb or release heat energy. It measures the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of one unit mass of the substance by one degree Celsius (or one Kelvin). Specific heat is expressed in units of joules per gram per degree Celsius (J/g°C) or joules per kilogram per degree Celsius (J/kg°C).

Understanding Specific Heat

When heat energy is supplied to a substance, its temperature increases. The specific heat of the substance determines how much heat energy is needed for this temperature rise. Substances with a high specific heat require more heat energy to raise their temperature compared to substances with a low specific heat.

Also Read:  Dynamo vs Alternator: Difference and Comparison

Importance of Specific Heat

  1. Thermal Properties: Specific heat plays a crucial role in understanding the thermal behavior of materials. It helps predict how substances respond to changes in temperature.
  2. Calorimetry: Specific heat is essential in calorimetry, the science of measuring heat changes in chemical reactions or physical processes. By measuring the temperature change and knowing the specific heat of the substances involved, the amount of heat absorbed or released can be calculated.
  3. Climate and Earth Sciences: Specific heat influences the climate and weather patterns of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Substances with high specific heat, like water, can store large amounts of heat energy, moderating temperature changes in their surroundings.
  4. Engineering and Technology: Specific heat is crucial in engineering applications, such as designing heating and cooling systems, selecting materials for construction, and optimizing energy usage in various processes.

Formula for Specific Heat

The specific heat (C) of a substance can be calculated using the formula:

Q=mcΔT

Where:

  • Q is the amount of heat energy transferred (in joules).
  • m is the mass of the substance (in grams or kilograms).
  • c is the specific heat of the substance (in J/g°C or J/kg°C).
  • ΔT is the change in temperature (in degrees Celsius or Kelvin).
specific heat

What is Heat capacity?

Heat capacity, denoted by the symbol Cp​ for constant pressure or Cv​ for constant volume, is a measure of the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of a substance by one degree Celsius (or Kelvin). Unlike specific heat, which refers to the heat capacity per unit mass of a substance, heat capacity represents the total heat energy required to raise the temperature of an entire sample.

Understanding Heat Capacity

Heat capacity is an extensive property, meaning it depends on the amount of substance present. It accounts for the combined effect of a substance’s mass and specific heat. Substances with higher heat capacities require more heat energy to raise their temperature compared to substances with lower heat capacities, regardless of their specific heats.

Importance of Heat Capacity

  1. Thermal Storage: Heat capacity is crucial in determining the thermal storage capacity of materials. Substances with high heat capacities, such as water, can store large amounts of heat energy, making them useful in thermal energy storage systems.
  2. Temperature Regulation: Heat capacity influences the ability of substances to maintain stable temperatures. Materials with high heat capacities tend to exhibit more stable temperature profiles, helping to regulate temperature fluctuations in their surroundings.
  3. Engineering and Industrial Processes: Understanding the heat capacity of materials is essential in various engineering and industrial applications. It helps in designing heating and cooling systems, selecting appropriate materials for construction, and optimizing energy usage in manufacturing processes.
  4. Thermodynamics: Heat capacity is a fundamental concept in thermodynamics, particularly in the study of heat transfer and energy exchange in physical and chemical systems. It plays a significant role in determining the efficiency and performance of thermal processes.
Also Read:  Neuromodulator vs Neurotransmitter: Difference and Comparison

Types of Heat Capacity

  1. Constant Pressure Heat Capacity (Cp​): This represents the heat capacity of a substance under conditions of constant pressure. It accounts for the work done by the substance against the external pressure as it expands or contracts during heating or cooling processes.
  2. Constant Volume Heat Capacity (Cv​): This represents the heat capacity of a substance under conditions of constant volume. It excludes the work done against external pressure, focusing solely on the internal energy change of the substance.

Relationship with Specific Heat

The heat capacity (C) of a substance can be calculated using its specific heat (c) and mass (m) with the formula:

C=mc

Where:

  • C is the heat capacity (in joules per degree Celsius or Kelvin).
  • m is the mass of the substance (in grams or kilograms).
  • c is the specific heat of the substance (in J/g°C or J/kg°C).
heat capacity

Main Differences Between Specific Heat and Heat Capacity

  • Definition:
    • Specific heat measures the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of one unit mass of a substance by one degree Celsius (or Kelvin).
    • Heat capacity represents the total heat energy required to raise the temperature of an entire sample, regardless of its mass.
  • Units:
    • Specific heat is expressed in units of joules per gram per degree Celsius (J/g°C) or joules per kilogram per degree Celsius (J/kg°C).
    • Heat capacity is expressed in units of joules per degree Celsius (J/°C) or joules per Kelvin (J/K).
  • Dependence on Quantity:
    • Specific heat is an intensive property, meaning it does not depend on the amount of substance present. It remains constant for a given substance.
    • Heat capacity is an extensive property, dependent on the amount of substance present. It increases proportionally with the mass of the substance.
  • Application:
    • Specific heat is commonly used in analyzing the thermal properties of substances and in calorimetry experiments.
    • Heat capacity is utilized in engineering applications, such as designing heating and cooling systems, and in determining the thermal storage capabilities of materials.
References
  1. https://journals.aps.org/prb/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevB.4.2029
  2. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev.physchem.56.092503.141202

Last Updated : 02 March, 2024

dot 1
One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️

23 thoughts on “Specific Heat vs Heat Capacity: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The detailed explanation of specific heat and heat capacity effectively conveys complex scientific concepts in an easy-to-understand manner.

    Reply
  2. This article provides subtle complexities behind common occurrences and illuminates their scientific reasoning with clarity.

    Reply
  3. The article explains very well the importance of scientific reasoning in day to day activities and provides a clear distinction between specific heat and heat capacity.

    Reply
  4. The article offers a comprehensive comparison between specific heat and heat capacity, giving a depth of understanding on the topic.

    Reply
  5. The informative content has shed light on the scientific reasoning behind basic activities, enriching understanding on the topic.

    Reply
  6. The examples used in the article make the concepts of specific heat and heat capacity easy to grasp and relatable to daily life.

    Reply
  7. This article enables a better comprehension of the scientific elements interwoven in daily activities, making learning engaging.

    Reply
  8. The article provides a deep dive into specific heat and heat capacity, encouraging critical thinking and understanding of scientific concepts.

    Reply
  9. This brings forward a whole new understanding of routine activities, with the scientific reasoning and understanding shared in the article.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Want to save this article for later? Click the heart in the bottom right corner to save to your own articles box!