Specific heat capacity is basically a measure of how hard it is to heat up different materials. To calculate the specific heat capacity (C) of any substance, you will need a specific heat capacity formula (equation, if you will).
Further on, you will also find a specific heat capacity calculator: You just plug in Q (heating energy), m (mass), and ΔT (temperature difference), and the calculator will dynamically calculate the specific heat capacity for you. Here’s how the specific heat calculator looks like (screenshot):
First, we will look at the specific heat capacity formula. It’s a fairly simple formula everybody can use. At the end, we also list specific heat capacities of air, water, and some other substances. We will also solve some easy examples of how to calculate specific heat capacity. Let’s look at an example to illustrate what specific heat capacity actually tells us:
Example: Air at room temperature has a specific heat capacity of 1012 J/kg×K. Water at room temperature has a specific heat capacity of 4181 J/kg×K. That means that we need about 4 times as much heat to heat up a kilogram of water than a kilogram of air.
Specific heat capacity is defined as the amount of heat needed to increase the temperature of 1 kg of a substance by 1K. Most often we use SI units for this (J = Joules, kg = kilograms, K = degrees of Kelvin).
We can neatly put all these numbers in a formula like this:
Specific Heat Capacity Formula
Specific heat capacity is denoted by C (C for Capacity). Here is the equation for calculating the specific heat capacity C:
C = Q ÷ (m×ΔT)
Pretty simple, right?
- Q is the amount of heat we supply to a substance. Might be 1 J, 40 J, or even 50.000 J, any amount of Joules go.
- m is the mass of the substance we’re heating. You can heat up 1 kg substance, 20 kg, or even 10 g substance, any amount of weight goes.
- ΔT is the temperature difference between the initial temperature and final temperature, and it’s always measured not in degrees Fahrenheit (°F), not in degrees Celsius (°C), but in Kelvins (K). Example: If we heat up water from 68°F or 20°C (that’s 293K) to 158°F or 70°C (that’s 343K), the temperature difference is 343K – 293K = 50K.
Here’s a quick example: Let’s say we need 6000 J of heat to heat up 3 kg of substance for 10K. Here’s how we calculate the specific heat capacity using the equation above;
C = 6000J ÷ (3kg × 10K) = 200 J/kg×K
The specific heat capacity formula tells us the specific heat capacity (C) of this substance is 200 J/kg×K.
To simplify things even further, you can use this calculator
Specific Heat Calculator
Basically, you just insert Q, m, and ΔT, and the calculator will dynamically calculate specific heat capacity for you. You can also play around with the numbers a bit, of course.
With this calculator, you can simply determine what the specific heat capacity of a substance is without the need to calculate everything yourself.
Let’s have a look at specific heat capacities of some common gases, liquids, and solids:
Specific Heat Capacity Table
|Substance:||Phase (Gas, Liquid, Solid):||Specific Heat Capacity (J/kg×K)|
|Air At Room Temperature||Gas||1012 J/kg×K|
|Argon (Ar)||Gas||520.3 J/kg×K|
|Carbon Dioxide (CO2)||Gas||839 J/kg×K|
|Helium (He)||Gas||5193.2 J/kg×K|
|Hydrogen (H2)||Gas||14.300 J/kg×K|
|Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)||Gas||1015 J/kg×K|
|Methane At 275K (CH4)||Gas||2191/kg×K|
|Nitrogen (N2)||Gas||1040 J/kg×K|
|Neon (Ne)||Gas||1030.1 J/kg×K|
|Oxygen (O2)||Gas||918 J/kg×K|
|Ammonia (NH3)||Liquid||4700 J/kg×K|
|Ethanol (CH3CH2OH)||Liquid||2440 J/kg×K|
|Methanol (CH3OH)||Liquid||2140 J/kg×K|
|Water At 25 °C||Liquid||4181.3 J/kg×K|
|Aluminum (Al)||Solid||897 J/kg×K|
If you have any questions about specific heat capacity, you can use the comments below and we’ll try to help you out as best we can.