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Understanding Specific Heat Capacity

In this worksheet, students will explore the idea of heat and use it work out the specific heat capacity of an object.

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Particles are vibrating all of the time, moving around all over the place and bashing into their neighbouring particles. We have a special scientific term for this, we call it heat - I know, a super technical word you’ve never come across before. This is literally all that heat is just movement (or vibration) of particles. This means that we can get stuff really hot here on earth, did you know that the hottest place in the solar system is not the sun, but a place called JET in Oxford! Its reached temperatures of over 50 million degrees – that over 20 times the temperature of the sun.

 

Image of the inside of the JET reactor core.

 

Okay, so we know that when we get stuff really hot all we are really doing is making the particles move around more – but did you know that some particles are harder to make move than others? Anyone who has put a pot of water on the stove to boil will tell you it takes AGES, but what about making a chunk of metal reach this same temperature? Well, it takes much less time thanks to something we call 'specific heat capacity' (or SHC for short).

 

SHC is literally just a measurement of the amount of energy it takes to heat up 1 kg of a material by 1 oC and it has the unit of (are you ready for this) -  joule per kilogram degree Celsius (J/kgoC). We can work this out by using the following equation:

 

energy transferred = mass × specific heat capacity × temperature change


To be really helpful, you will NOT need to remember this equation in the exam – you’ll just need to make sure that you can remember which number is which!

 

So, let’s go through an example question and how you might answer it:

 

A block of Aluminium has a specific heat capacity of 900 J/kgoC and is heated from a starting temperature of 0 to a final temperature of 100 oC. The mass of the block is 4 kg. How much energy is transferred to the object?

You can answer a question like this in stages:

 

1 – find all of the numbers and underline them like this:

A block of Aluminium has a specific heat capacity of 900J/kgoC and is heated from a starting temperature of 0 to a final temperature of 100 oC. The mass of the block is 4 kg. How much energy is transferred to the object?

 

2 – good, now we need to find out where they all fit into the equation. I write them out and put the corresponding number next to them like this:

Mass = 4kg

Specific Heat Capacity = 900 J/kg oC

Temperature change = 0 – 100.

 

3 – Oh no! There is a temperature change, so work out what the difference is (super hard right?)

Mass = 4 kg

Specific Heat Capacity = 900 J/kg oC

Temperature change = 100 – 0 = 100 oC

 

4 – finally, write them into the equation, put the numbers in the calculator and press =.

Energy = 4 x 900 x 100

Energy = 360,000 J

 

Don’t forget your units! And make sure you ALWAYS write out every step – this way the examiner can follow what you are thinking and might be able to give you some marks even if you don’t get the answer right.

 

Match the keyword to the meaning

Column A

Column B

SHC
How many particles there are in a substance.
Tempurature
The amount of energy it take to heat up 1 kg of a ...
Heat
The average kinetic energy of the molecules
Mass
The total amount of kinetic energy of particles in...

Describe how the motion of particles changes when you heat them up (1 mark)

If an object takes more energy to heat up, then does it have a higher specific heat capacity or a lower one? 

Higer

Lower

Match the symbol to the unit.

Column A

Column B

Energy (E)
Degree calculus (oC)
Mass (m)
Joules per kilogram degree calculus (J/kgo
Specific heat capacity (c)
Joule (J)
Change in temperature (ΔΘ)
Kilogram (kg)

A man uses a stone to cook his food on. He puts the 1 kg stone of the fire, changeling the temperature by 100 oC. Calculate the energy that the fire supplied to the stone.

 

Specific heart capacity of stone = 790 J/kgoC.

 

 

 

The stone is then used to cook stakes and cools down during this process. It reaches a temperature of 70 oC. Calculate how much energy has been given to the stakes that where put onto the stone. 

 

Mass of the stone = 1 kg

Specific heat capacity = 790 J/kgoC.

Define specific heat capacity. 

A storage heater is a device that will be slowly heated during the day and then release this heat during the night. Using the data below, choose a suitable material to make a storage heater from and explain your choice.  (3 marks)

 

Material Specific heat capacity / J/kgoC. Melting point / oC.
Copper 385 1200
Granite 790 2400
Water 2400 0
Ceramic 1200 2400

 

Which of the following is the specific heat capacity equation? 

Energy = mass x specific heat capacity x chacnge in tempurature

Energy = mass x specific latenet heat

Energy = 0.5 x mass x velocity2

Energy = 0.5 x spring constant x extention2

Water has a very high specific heat capacity and this means that it can absorb a lot of heat energy and transport it around the earth in the form of water currents. In the UK, we have a stream of hot water that comes up from the Gulf of Mexico called the Gulf Stream. Due to climate change, however, this is slowing down and not giving the UK as much energy as it should be. Suggest some possible side effects of this (2 marks). 

  • Question 1

Match the keyword to the meaning

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

SHC
The amount of energy it take to h...
Tempurature
The average kinetic energy of the...
Heat
The total amount of kinetic energ...
Mass
How many particles there are in a...
EDDIE SAYS
These all are scientific definitions that you might get asked, so you need to remember them. They come up quite often in exams, so get your learning brains on! I recommend that you make your own little learning poster for things like this and draw big pictures around them that will help you to remember these. They are seriously super important to remember!
  • Question 2

Describe how the motion of particles changes when you heat them up (1 mark)

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
When we are asked to describe things, there is a little mantra that I use - 'Say what you see'. It literally means that and nothing more - you just need to say what will happen. No science, no maths - just a simple description of what is happening to the particles. you are speeding them up!
  • Question 3

If an object takes more energy to heat up, then does it have a higher specific heat capacity or a lower one? 

CORRECT ANSWER
Higer
EDDIE SAYS
Specific heat capacity is the measurement of how much energy it takes to heat up an object of a mass of 1 kg by 1 oC. This means that if you increase the amount of energy that it takes to heat up that substance, then only thing in the equation that you can change is the specific heat capacity. The higher the specific heat capacity, the more energy it takes to heat itself up. Simple right?
  • Question 4

Match the symbol to the unit.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Energy (E)
Joule (J)
Mass (m)
Kilogram (kg)
Specific heat capacity (c)
Joules per kilogram degree calcul...
Change in temperature (Δ&Th...
Degree calculus (oC)
EDDIE SAYS
You are going to see a question like this when there are multiple things that you need to remember. In this case, if you can remember the units - they will give you the equation so all you need to do is plug those into the calculator in the correct order and your flying! Easy marks!
  • Question 5

A man uses a stone to cook his food on. He puts the 1 kg stone of the fire, changeling the temperature by 100 oC. Calculate the energy that the fire supplied to the stone.

 

Specific heart capacity of stone = 790 J/kgoC.

 

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
79,000
79000
EDDIE SAYS
This is a simple version of the question. All you need to do is find the information and put it into the equation in the correct order. REMEMBER - always write down every step! That way if you make a mistake in the exam, you can still get some marks for it. Find the values and write them down: m = 1 kg c = 790 J/kgoC ΔΘ = 100 oC Put them into the equation: E = 1 x 100 x 790 E = 79000 J Remember the units! They are given to you here, but you'll never be docked marks for adding additional units (unless they are wrong).
  • Question 6

The stone is then used to cook stakes and cools down during this process. It reaches a temperature of 70 oC. Calculate how much energy has been given to the stakes that where put onto the stone. 

 

Mass of the stone = 1 kg

Specific heat capacity = 790 J/kgoC.

CORRECT ANSWER
23,700
23700
EDDIE SAYS
This one is a little more difficult. For this one, you have all of the information, but you need to work out the change in temperature first. Let's have a look at how we do it: Write down all of the numbers: E = ? m = 1 kg c = 790 J/kgoC. ΔΘ = 100 - 70 = 30 oC. Now put them into the equation: E = 1 x 790 x 30 E = 23700 J Done!
  • Question 7

Define specific heat capacity. 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
This is one of those definitions we've been talking about so much. You need to remember the meaning of specific heat capacity. There aren't any shortcuts here, you just have to remember it! The amount of energy it takes to heat up 1 kg of a substance by 1 oC.
  • Question 8

A storage heater is a device that will be slowly heated during the day and then release this heat during the night. Using the data below, choose a suitable material to make a storage heater from and explain your choice.  (3 marks)

 

Material Specific heat capacity / J/kgoC. Melting point / oC.
Copper 385 1200
Granite 790 2400
Water 2400 0
Ceramic 1200 2400

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
This is a common type of question you get in exams. They will often ask you to look at a bunch of information and select the one that is the most suitable for the question. In a question like this, it is really important that you talk about every part of the table - you need to talk about BOTH the specific heat capacity AND the melting point. In this case, the best one would have been ceramic, because it has a high SHC and a high melting point. This means that it will be able to absorb a lot of energy during the day and give it out during the night and it won't be in danger of melting if it gets too hot.
  • Question 9

Which of the following is the specific heat capacity equation? 

CORRECT ANSWER
Energy = mass x specific heat capacity x chacnge in tempurature
EDDIE SAYS
These are equations that will all be on your equation list. When you see anything to do with temperature, then you need to look for the correct equation in the list. This one can be confusing because there will be 2 equations that look the same but are different, the first equation is the specific heat capacity one and the second equation is the specific latent heat one - don't get them confused!
  • Question 10

Water has a very high specific heat capacity and this means that it can absorb a lot of heat energy and transport it around the earth in the form of water currents. In the UK, we have a stream of hot water that comes up from the Gulf of Mexico called the Gulf Stream. Due to climate change, however, this is slowing down and not giving the UK as much energy as it should be. Suggest some possible side effects of this (2 marks). 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Suggest is a word that means \'You have not been taught about this, but there is enough information for you to make a guess\'. If you think these questions are hard, they are meant to be - this is the hardest type of question you\'ll be likely to do. Just have a go at it! In this case, it wants you to make a link between the heat coming from the gulf stream and the heat of the UK. If the gulf stream is slowing down, then there will not be as much heat coming to the UK, so there will be some obvious changes - the sea will be colder for example. There are also some less noticeable changes, for example, summers will be warmer becue the gulf stream will not be cooling us down in the summer.
Try it ---- OR ----

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