The concept of specific heat is used in the field of physics with reference to the heat that a substance requires per unit mass to achieve an increase in temperature by one degree Celsius.
To understand the notion, therefore, we must have several clear ideas. It is called heat, in the context of physics, the energy moves from one body to another, causing state changes and dilation. The mass, moreover, is a physical quantity that refers to the amount of matter that is present in a body. The temperature finally, is another physical quantity, in this case oriented heat level having a body or environment.
If we take these concepts and link them to the definition we mentioned in the first paragraph, we can see that specific heat is the energy that a unit of mass of a substance needs to increase its heat by one degree Celsius.
According to abbreviationfinder, specific heat, which can be represented by a lowercase letter C (c), is usually linked to the initial temperature of the substance. It is an intensive property of matter: it is not related to its quantity or size.
As the specific heat of a substance increases, it takes a greater amount of heat to achieve the increase in temperature. If we take the case of substances in the gaseous state, we can see that nitrogen has a higher specific heat mass than oxygen. Therefore it takes more energy to achieve the heat increase in a unit mass of nitrogen than oxygen.
The origin of the name of this concept is in the investigations of the Scottish physicist Joseph Black, who carried out various calorimetric experiments and coined the phrase ” capacity for heat.” Calorimetry, for its part, is the branch of physics that has the objective of measuring heat in a change of state or a chemical reaction using an instrument known as a calorimeter.
It is important to bear in mind that Joseph Black was born in 1728 and that he died a year before the beginning of the 19th century, which is why the vision that science had of these and other phenomena was very different from the current one. For example, thermodynamics and mechanics were taken as independent sciences, and this leads us to think that the term “specific heat”, conceived at that time, is not entirely consistent with current ideas of science; however, since it has become ingrained in the community, they continue to use it without modifying it.
Regarding the equations that we must use to calculate the value of specific heat, we can say that the average specific heat capacity (which is represented by the symbol ĉ) corresponds to a temperature interval defined as follows: ĉ = Q / mΔT.
The variable Q represents the energy that is transferred between two systems or between one and its surroundings, in the form of heat. m, for its part, corresponds to the mass of the system (if we were treating the molar specific heat, then we should use the letter n). Finally, there is the temperature delta (ΔT), that is, the increase in temperature that the system passes through. We must not forget that the two variables that are after the division sign must be multiplied by each other (m by ΔT).
In engineering, the measurement of specific heat usually has mass as the quantity of substance, both in kilograms and grams. In chemistry, on the other hand, it is convenient to use the unit mole.