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In this investigation, I am going to investigate how increasing the temperature of substance will help determine the Specific Heat Capacity of the substance.

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Specific Heat Capacity Of Ethanol


 In this investigation, I am going to investigate how increasing the temperature of substance will help determine the Specific Heat Capacity of the substance.

Specific Heat Capacity (C) is the energy that is required to raise the temperature of 1kg of a substance by 1 c or 1K.

The three variables that affect the specific heat capacity of a substance are:

  • Energy supplied (J)
  • Mass (kg)
  • Temperature change (K) or ( c)

The equation that is used to determine the specific heat capacity of any substance is;

        Specific Heat Capacity =    _        Energy Supplied ( Q)                

                (C)                   Mass (kg) * Temperature Change (    )

Unit: Jkg- K-

Each different substance have different specific heat capacity, this is because different substances require different amount of energy to change the to increase or decrease the temperature. As all substances have different Internal Energy, this explains why different substances require different amount of energy to change the temperature.

        Studies from A2 explain that Internal Energy (Thermal Energy) is the sum of the kinetic energy and the potential energy of the molecules in an object or substance. If the temperature of a substance increases so does the internal energy. Referring back to knowledge gained from A1 when a substance is at a liquid state it has more internal energy than a substance at solid state. This can be explained by the fact that at solid state particles are bonded together so the particles movement is restricted.

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        Stop clock

        Connecting wires

        Heatproof mat

        Immersion heat

        Beaker and Lid



        Ethanol (0.3kg)

The equipment will be set-up as shown in the diagram. As temperature will be variable, that will be controlled so the temperature should rise by at least 10 degrees to be able to plot a graph.  I will do three observations to be able to work out an average to plot the graph.

From the my preliminary work I learnt that I should use a smaller beaker, less liquid, smaller heater and the beaker should be wrapped by material to reduce heat loss. The thermometer and joule meter reading should be recorded after every 2 minutes.


As the experiment involves electricity and liquid, safety precautions will apply. The beaker should be placed on a heat proof mat, don’t touch the power pack or connecting wires with wet hands as this can give electric shock.  The heater will be hot so one should be aware, it should be placed on the heatproof mat when removed from the beaker and, Spillages of liquid should be avoid as this makes the floor slippery.


To be able to obtain accurate results other variable (mass) should be kept be kept the same through out all experiments. In all 3 experiments the same beaker should be used, same heater, thermometer, joule meter and power pack. All three experiments should be done in the same part of the room to avoid temperature variation.


Last Published
Useful Information

Dictionary Of Physics

By Usborne Publishing Ltd


I provided and explanation about Internal Energy

Advanced Physics For You

By Stanley Thomes Ltd


Lots of information but important about thermodynamics

Advanced Physics;

Materials and Mechanics

2nd Edition

By John Murray Ltd


Provides depth information on Specifics Heat Capacity and specific heat capacity for varies materials

Revise As Physics for OCR

By David Sang


Provides the equations to calculate Power and Energy

Cambridge Physic 2

By David Sang


Information about specific heat capacity and how to work out specific heat capacity

Nuffield Advanced Science

Book Of Data

By Longman Group Ltd


Contained the actual specific heat capacity for ethanol and all other substances.




This websites gives information on the laws of thermodynamics’, Entropy and internal energy



This website provided information about internal energy and entropy.

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        The limitation from the experiment that stopped me from obtaining a value that is 100% accurate was the heat loss through convection and these can be improved by using a lid that covers the entire top and the gaps for thermometer and heater don’t have any space for air to enter or escape. The fact that some heat energy goes towards heating up the equipments, the equipments should be kept in a temperature that when any electrical energy is given it will all be used to heat up the ethanol and beaker to be wrapped with good insulators so any heat conducted to the beaker will not escape. Doing all these will decrease the amount of heat that is being used in other way than heating the substance.

        The main sources or errors would be the taking and recording of the readings. I had to observe and record both readings every minute, which meant that some records were few seconds late or early. This explains the reason the experiments producing minor differences when repeated. The way to overcome this problem is to have three people taking single reading and these would increase the accuracy of the results.

Anold Gitahi

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