Heat Capacity Calculator

Created by Purnima Singh, PhD
Reviewed by Wojciech Sas, PhD and Steven Wooding
Last updated: Dec 09, 2022

Using Omni's heat capacity calculator, you can determine the capability of a body to absorb heat. Not sure what heat capacity is, or how is it different from specific heat? Worry not! We have got you covered. Read on to know the definition, units, and formula for heat capacity (also known as thermal capacity). We have also included a section on heat capacity vs. specific heat.

What is heat capacity?

Heat capacity (or thermal capacity) of a body is the amount of heat required to raise the body's temperature through a unit degree. This quantity tells us how much heat we should supply to heat a cup of water or a bucket of water, since both hold different volume and hence have a different mass of water.

From the heat transfer equation, we know that the amount of heat (Q∆Q) required to raise the temperature of a body of mass mm by T∆T is:

Q=cmT∆Q = c \cdot m\cdot ∆T

where cc is the specific heat of the body: if you don't remember its definition, visit our specific heat calculator.

Rearranging the heat transfer equation, we can get the formula for heat capacity SS:

S=QT=cmS = \frac{∆Q}{∆T} = c\cdot m

Here, we note that the heat capacity depends on the body's mass and its specific heat capacity.

The SI unit of heat capacity is J/K\mathrm{J/K}. Another commonly used unit of heat capacity is cal/°C\mathrm{cal/\degree C}. Notice that this equivalence is possible only because we are dealing with temperature differences. Refer to our temperature conversion tool to learn how to convert between absolute temperatures.

How to calculate the heat capacity of an object

Let us see how to calculate the heat capacity of any object using Omni's heat capacity calculator. We will calculate the heat capacity of a cup of water (236 g236\ \mathrm{g}). The specific heat of water is 4.184 J/(g°C)4.184\ \mathrm{J/(g\cdot\degree C)}.

  1. Enter the water's mass, i.e., 236 g236\ \mathrm{g}.
  2. Using the drop-down menu, choose the substance, and the specific heat capacity field will display the corresponding value. If you already know the specific heat capacity for water, input its value, i.e., 4.184 J/(g°C)4.184\ \mathrm{J/(g\cdot\degree C)}.
  3. As a result, you can see the calculated heat capacity, i.e., 987.4 J/°C987.4\ \mathrm{J/\degree C}. It means that we need to supply 987.4 J987.4\ \mathrm{J} of energy to raise water temperature in the cup by 1 °C1\ \degree \mathrm{C}.
  4. Additionally, you can choose different units for heat capacity, specific heat, and mass using the drop-down menu.
  5. How about estimating the heat capacity of a bucket of water and comparing it with that of a cup of water?

If you want to calculate the heat energy absorbed or released during a phase transition, we recommend checking our latent heat calculator.

Heat capacity vs. specific heat

Often we get confused between heat capacity and specific heat capacity. But these are two different physical quantities. Heat capacity is the property of an object. In contrast, specific heat capacity is a property of the material the object is made of.

For example, the specific heat capacity of a cup of water is the same as that of a bucket of water. It only depends on the properties of water. However, the heat capacity of a bucket of water will be much higher than that of a cup, since the bucket has more water than a cup.

In the given table, we outline the main difference between the two:

Table I: Comparison of heat capacity vs. specific heat.

Property

Heat capacity

Specific heat

Definition

Amount of heat required to raise a body's temperature through a unit degree.

Amount of heat required to raise a unit mass of a body's temperature through a unit degree.

Formula

S=QTS = \frac{∆Q}{∆T}

c=QTmc = \frac{∆Q}{∆T\cdot m}

SI unit

J/K\mathrm{J/K}

J/(kgK\mathrm{J/(kg\cdot K}

In physics, we have names for both types of properties: extensive and intensive properties. The formers depend on the amount of mass of the object: we are talking of properties like the one you can meet at our combined gas law calculator. Intensive properties don't depend on the mass: you have the best example of them at our density calculator.

FAQ

Is heat capacity an intensive or extensive property?

The heat capacity is an extensive property as it depends on the body's mass, i.e., amount of matter. However, specific heat capacity is an intensive property.

Extensive properties depend on the amount of matter present in the sample, whereas intensive properties only depend on the type of matter.

What is the heat capacity of water?

The specific heat capacity of water is 4184 J/(kg · K). It means that we need to supply 4184 joules of heat to increase the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1 Kelvin. We can calculate the heat capacity of a given mass of water by multiplying the specific heat capacity of water with its mass.

Why does water have a high heat capacity?

The high heat capacity of water is due to the presence of hydrogen bonds between the water molecule. A large amount of heat supplied to water goes into breaking these hydrogen bonds.

What is the biological significance of water's high heat capacity?

The heat capacity of water is the highest among all liquids. This means that water can absorb or lose a large amount of heat before its temperature changes. Also, water takes a long time to heat or cool.

This specific property allows us to maintain body temperature, as almost 60% of our body is water.

It also ensures the survival of aquatic life by avoiding too much temperature fluctuation of water bodies like the ocean.

Purnima Singh, PhD
Mass (m)
lb
Substance (optional)
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Specific heat (c)
BTU/(lb·°F)
Heat capacity (S)
BTU/°F
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