Q:

What is the difference between specific heat and heat capacity?

A:

Quick Answer

Heat capacity is the amount of heat needed to change the temperature of a substance by 1 degree Celsius, while specific heat is the heat needed to change the temperature of 1 gram of substance by 1 degree Celsius. Whereas heat capacity is dependent on the amount of substance, heat capacity is independent of it.

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Full Answer

Temperatures of a substance rise when it is heated but decrease when a substance is cooled. The difference in temperature is proportional to the amount of heat supplied. Specific heat and heat capacity are two proportionality constants relating the temperature change and the amount of heat. The temperature of an object is a measure of the energy of each individual particle within it. On the other hand, heat energy is a measure of the total energy of the substance as a whole. This explains why a candle flame (750 degrees Celsius) can be put out with moist fingers without getting hurt, but it is very painful putting fingers into a cup of hot water at 80 degrees Celsius. This is because of the difference between heat energy and temperature.

Molecules in the candle flame move at a very high speed because of their high temperature, but there are very few. Although the speed of molecules in the cup of water is much less, there are many more molecules, leading to higher heat energy. The amount of heat needed to change the temperature of a body depends on: the body material, body mass and the change in temperature (positive or negative).

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