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Specific heat capacity of an unknown metal

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AIM: The aim is to determine the specific heat capacity of the unknown metal provided.


Specific heat capacity is the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of a unit of mass of a substance by a unit change in temperature.


or, image01.pngQ = mcimage01.pngT

where image01.pngQ is the change in heat content in Joules, m is the mass in kg, c is the specific heat capacity in J/(kg°C), and image01.pngT is the change in temperature in °C or K.

The derived unit for c, the specific heat capacity, is J/(kg°C)

The specific heat capacity of a substance depends on its molecular structure and on its phase.


From observation, the metal is yellowish red in colour and is polished displaying a bright metallic luster. From the above observation made the metal is most likely to be copper which has a specific heat capacity of approximately 385 JKg-1K-1.


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  • Then I measured and noted down the temperature of the cold water in the calorimeter as T1.
  • Then I half filled the 250 ml beaker with water and heated it. Then I inserted the metal block with the thread into the beaker being heated and waited for the water to come to a certain temperature which in this case will also be the temperature of the unknown metal block before being transferred to the calorimeter.
  • Then I measured and noted down the temperature of the water being heated as T2 which was also the temperature of the metal block and then I removed the metal block and immediately immersed it into the water in the calorimeter and straight away covered the calorimeter in order to avoid any heat loss to the atmosphere.
  • Then I left the metal block in the calorimeter and stirred while constantly looking at the thermometer until the water inside the calorimeter reached a constant temperature which was the final temperature of both the metal block and the water.
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  • There might have been significant heat loss to the surrounding while transferring the hot metal object from the beaker into the calorimeter and this heat loss might have affected the values and results.
  • The use of an electric balance to measure the masses of the substances used in the experiment helped to avoid the uncertainties and errors related to the mass values.
  • While conducting the experiment, I could not manage to heat the metal object up to the boiling point, as the metal object was removed when it was significantly hot due to the loosening and breaking of the cotton thread, nonetheless a higher temperature such as the boiling point (100oC) could have resulted into more accurate readings and results.
  • The main source of error in this experiment was due to the limitation in the choice of apparatus used, the use of better and more accurate equipment would lead to more accurate results (results without errors). For example, rather than using a normal laboratory thermometer which has an error of ± 0.05 oC, it is better to use a digital thermometer which is more exact leading to more accurate temperature readings and hence, results.

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