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What is Specific Heat Capacity?

alex radell
What is Specific Heat Capacity?

Heat capacity is a measurable physical quantity equal to the ratio of the heat added to (or removed from) an object to the resulting temperature change.

Specific Heat is a particular type of heat capacity. In thermodynamic, specific heat is the amount of heat per unit mass required to raise the temperature by one-degree Celsius. To be precise, it is an intensive property that describes how much heat must be added to a substance to raise its temperature. The international standard SI unit for specific heat is joule per kelvin per kilogram (J/K kg, J/kg K), J K−1 kg−1, J/kg°C etc.).


What is the equation for specific heat?

The equation of specific heat is:


in where:

Q = represents the amount of heat

c = specific heat

ΔT = change in temperature


What is the specific heat of water?

Some substances heat up quickly, while other substances slowly heat up. The best example of this is Water (H2O). Water is a polar inorganic compound that is at room temperature a tasteless and odorless liquid, which is nearly colorless apart from an inherent hint of blue. It is by far the most studied chemical compound and is described as the "universal solvent" and the "solvent of life".

The specific heat capacity of water is 4182 J/kg°C. Water has a high specific heat capacity because it takes more energy to raise the temperature. Therefore, water is valuable to industries. Water’s high heat capacity is a property caused by hydrogen bonding among water molecules. When heat is absorbed, hydrogen bonds are broken, and water molecules can move freely. When the temperature of water decreases, the hydrogen bonds are formed and release a considerable amount of energy.

As a result, it takes water a long time to heat and a long time to cool. In fact, the specific heat capacity of water is about five times more than that of sand. This explains why the land cools faster than the sea.

Note that since specific heat is per unit mass, its value does not change, no matter the size of the sample. So, the specific heat of a gallon of water is the same as the specific heat of a drop of water.


Why is the heat capacity of water being important?

Water is the most abundant substance on Earth and the only common substance to exist as a solid, liquid, and gas on Earth's surface. It is also the third most abundant molecule in the universe.

The high heat capacity of water has a great deal to do with regulating extremes in the environment. For instance, the fish in the pond are indeed happy because the heat capacity of the water in the pond means the temperature of the water will stay relatively the same from day to night. Heat capacity of water has a huge role to play in the Earth's climate and helps determine the habitability of many places around the globe.

Table of Common Specific Heats and Heat Capacities

This chart of specific heat capacity values should help you get a better sense of the types of materials that readily conduct heat versus those which do not. As you might expect, metals have relatively low specific heats.


Specific Heat in J/kg°C








Olive oil




Table Salt




Liquid Water



Specific Heat Calculator

An invaluable tool called “Rule of Mixtures Calculator” for estimating the specific heat capacity of mixtures containing any number of materials was developed. Using the mass and specific heat capacity of each component, the Rule of Mixtures Calculator calculates the specific heat capacity of the entire sample. The calculator uses the rule of mixtures formula to estimate the specific heat capacity of a solution with multiple components.






alex radell
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