Specific heat capacity of solids is important to understand in lots of applications that deal with heat energy and changes in temperature. This experiment allows you to control the electrical heating power applied to a choice of six different materials and measure the rate at which the sample temperature changes. You can then calculate the specific heat capacity of the chosen material. Compare the different materials, investigate the effect of having thermally insulated or uninsulated samples, and see if different heating powers change the measurements.
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There are lots of ways that we use materials that see them change temperature. Some examples include heating systems in buildings (especially storage heaters), simple household appliances such as an iron or an oven, combustion engines in cars, jet engines in aircraft, high speed machines such as drills, and industrial furnaces; however, examples also include applications where the temperature is reduced, for example in refrigerators, freezers and heat sinks, which are used to help cool another component.
A change in a material’s temperature will also result in a change in its heat energy. Different materials, however, will have a different change in heat energy for a given change in temperature.
The materials property we use to show this difference is called specific heat capacity. This property is key to allowing us to understand how components will perform in thermal applications and help us to choose the most appropriate material. If you go to study Physics or Engineering at university you will probably also learn how specific heat capacity values depend on a material’s types of atom, atomic bonding and electrical properties.
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The 'Activities' download gives full step-by-step instructions for four activities with this experiment
The 'Worksheets' download provides worksheets for these four activities that can be printed out and written on directly.
Download the attached file to see the scientific background to this experiment (requires login)