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mwmovr40 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One certainly has noticed that some things heat or cool more quickly than other things.  A careful, controlled observation would reveal that each pure substance has its own rate of gaining or losing heat energy.  The intrinsic property that defines the amount of heat that is required to change the temperature of a substance is called its specific heat.

Specific heat depends on the chemical and physical properties of the matter.  For example, the specific heat of liquid water is determined by the mass of the molecules and the fact that they are strong hydrogen bonding molecules.  However, water in its solid form has a different specific heat and then again water in its vapor form has yet another value.

The specific heat of the material is related to not only the material but the difference in the change in temperature and the mass of the material being heated.  Therefore, the specific heat is defined as the amount of heat required to raise one gram of the material one degree Celsius and is measured in units of joules per gram-degree Celsius.

Closely related to this is latent heat.  When an matter of a particular form (solid or liquid) absorbs heat it increases its temperature until it being to transition to the next form.  This process is changing phase.  During the phase change, all of the heat energy is used to change from one phase to another and the substance does not change temperature during the phase change.  The latent heat also is an intrinsic property and has one value when the phase goes from solid to liquid (heat of fusion) than from liquid to vapor (heat of vaporization).


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