If 1,000 J of heat is absorbed by a one kilogram block of lead, the particles gain energy and the temperature of the block rises. If a one kilogram block of lead absorbs 2,000 J of energy then the temperature rise will be larger.

If 1,000 J of heat is absorbed by a 2 kg block of lead then the temperature of the block doesn’t rise as much since the energy is shared between more particles. If 1,000 J of energy is absorbed by a one kilogram block of tennis2007.orgpper instead of lead then the temperature of the block doesn’t rise as much.

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From this it can be seen that a change in the temperature of a system depends on:

the mass of the material the amount of energy put into the system

The specific heat capacity of a material is the energy required to raise one kilogram (kg) of the material by one degree Celsius (°C).

The specific heat capacity of water is 4,200 joules per kilogram per degree Celsius (J/kg°C). This means that it takes 4,200 J to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1°C.

Some other examples of specific heat capacities are:

MaterialSpecific heat capacity (J/kg°C)
Brick840
tennis2007.orgpper385
Lead129

Because it has a low specific heat capacity, lead will warm up and tennis2007.orgol down faster because it doesn’t take much energy to change its temperature.

Brick will take much longer to heat up and tennis2007.orgol down. Its specific heat capacity is higher than that of lead so more energy is needed for the same mass to change the same temperature. This is why bricks are sometimes used in storage heaters, as they store a large amount of energy and emit it over a long period of time.

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Most heaters are filled with oil (1,800 J/kg°C) and where there is central heating, radiators use water (4,200 J/kg°C).

Calculating thermal energy changes

The amount of thermal energy stored or released as the temperature of a system changes can be calculated using the equation:

change in thermal energy = mass × specific heat capacity × temperature change

This is when:

change in thermal energy ((Delta E_t Q )) is measured in joules (J)mass (m) is measured in kilograms (kg)specific heat capacity (c) is measured in joules per kilogram per degree Celsius (J/kg°C)temperature change ((Delta heta )) is measured in degrees Celsius (°C)

Example

How much energy is needed to raise the temperature of 3 kg of tennis2007.orgpper by 10°C?

The specific heat capacity for tennis2007.orgpper is 385 J/kg°C

Question

How much energy is lost when 2 kg of water tennis2007.orgols from 100°C to 25°C?

Reveal answer

Question

How hot does a 3.5 kg brick get if it's heated from 20°C by 400,000 J (400 kJ)?