A chef was in a hurry to prepare a meal. He had two pans of the same size: one with a copper bottom, and one with an aluminum bottom. After looking up the specific heat capacity of each metal in his chemistry book, which pan did he use? Why?

1 Answer
Jul 22, 2016




Specific heat capacity is the amount of heat required to raise 1 gram of substance by 1 degree kelvin. So, the lower the heat capacity, the easier something is to heat up. If the chef is in a hurry we would assume he would want the pan to heat up faster so will go with the lower heat capacity.

I sadly don't have a chemistry book but the first thing on google says that #c_("copper") = 0.385 and c_("aluminium") = 0.900 # it uses non-SI units but we can use it to compare anyway.

Can clearly see that copper has a lower specific heat so he will choose that.

Incidentally, if you are interested you may look at this problem from a heat conduction angle, look up the thermal conductivities of each and then use Fourier's law of heat conduction to see that Copper would be the superior choice but that may be getting a bit outside the context of the problem (and a bit too physics-y if you're a pure chemist!).