How do you calculate specific heat capacity given heat flow, mass and temperature change?

1 Answer

To calculate the specific heat capacity of a substance, use the formula #Q = m C Delta T#

where Q is the quantity of heat (energy) needed to raise the temperature of 1 kg of a substance by 1°C, measured in J;
m is the mass of the substance, in kg;
C is the specific heat capacity of the material, in #J/(kg * °C)#; and
#Delta T# is the temperature change, in °C.

If you are looking for the specific heat capacity (C), you will need to isolate it by dividing both sides by #m Delta T#.


#2.34 \times 10^4# J of heat are added to 2.0 kg of an unknown metal to cause a temperature change of #90.0° C#. What is the specific heat capacity of the unknown metal?

#C = Q / (m Delta T)#
#C = (2.34 \times 10^4 J) / (2.0 kg \times 90.0° C)#
#C = 1.30 \times 10^2 J/(kg * °C)#

You can easily look up on a chart of specific heat capacities this value, to find that this metal is (most likely) lead.