Dominic Held Specific Heat of Metals

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Dominic Held

Specific Heat of Metals


In this experiment, we will calculate the specific heat of several metals by measuring the change in temperature of water when a heated metal is added to it. According to thermo-dynamics two systems in contact will transfer heat until they are in equilibrium. This also implies that the heat gained by the water is equal to the heat lost by the metal.


Students will calculate the specific heat of several metals through measurements taken in class. Students will gain experience taking measurements of mass and temperature. They will also gain insight on the specific heat of materials, that it is dependent on the type of material.


Styrofoam Cups 2 Thermometers

Hot Plate Water

Massing Scale Beaker

Various metal objects

Groups of 2-3 will be assigned.

  1. Fill beaker with water and place on hot plate. Place a thermometer inside beaker with water. Heat water until boiling.

  2. Find the mass of each of your metal objects.

  3. Place the various metal objects into the boiling water.

  4. Cut the top half of a Styrofoam cup off and poke a hole in the bottom so a thermometer can fit through. This will be the top of the heat transfer cup.

  5. Find the mass of an empty cup add about 25 ml and find the mass of the water and the cup. Subtract this from the mass of the empty cup to find the mass of the water.

  6. The thermometer in the boiling water should read 100۫ C. Record the temperature of the water in the cup. Quickly place a hot metal object in the cup with water. Place the top on; making sure the thermometer is not touching the metal.

  7. Wait a few minutes until the water temperature stops increasing. Record this temperature.

  8. Calculate the change in temperature for both the metal and the water. With this you can calculate the experimental specific heat of your metal.

  9. Repeat these steps for each of your metal objects three times.


The amount of heat gained by the water:
Q = m * cw * ∆t
Q = heat gained by water

m = mass of water

cw = Specific heat of water [4.186 J/(g * ۫C)]

∆t = change in temperature for the water

The specific heat of the metal:
cm = Q / m * ∆t
cm = Specific heat of metal

Q = heat lost by metal = heat gained by water

m = mass of metal

∆t = change in temperature for the metal

1. Why do we use boiling water to heat the metal objects? Why don’t we just heat them directly?
2. Does density determine specific heat? (Did the metal sink or float)
3. If you were trying to insulate something, would you use metal or water?

Participation- Student is on task, working well with group. Instructor should not have to settle disputes between group members on how and who will complete the objectives of the exercise.
Lab Report- This includes data and calculations.
Essay questions: Each student will submit their responses to the essay questions. Responses will be graded on completeness, thoughtfulness, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
Lab Report and essay questions will be submitted on time. No late work will be accepted without a written excuse from a parent or doctor.
Participation in Data Collection ----------------25 pts

Lab Report ----------------------------------------50 pts

Essay Questions-----------------------------------25 pts
Total---------------------------------------------100 pts

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