# Specific Heat vs. Heat Capacity: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 4, 2023
Specific heat is the heat required to change the temperature of a unit mass by one degree, while heat capacity is the heat needed to change the temperature of an object by one degree.

## Key Differences

Specific heat is a property that describes the amount of heat energy required to change the temperature of a specific amount (usually one gram or one kilogram) of a substance by one degree Celsius. Heat capacity, on the other hand, refers to the total amount of heat energy needed to change the temperature of an entire object or sample by one degree Celsius.
Specific heat is an intensive property, meaning it doesn't depend on the amount of material present. It gives us an idea of how different materials respond to the addition or removal of heat. Heat capacity, on the other hand, is an extensive property and depends on the amount of material. For instance, a large block of metal has a greater heat capacity than a smaller block of the same metal.
Specific heat can be thought of as a per-unit measure. For example, if you're curious about how much energy is required to heat a gram of water by one degree Celsius, you'd refer to the specific heat of water. Heat capacity, however, would be used if you wanted to know the energy required to heat a particular water sample, say a cup or a gallon, by one degree.
In essence, specific heat characterizes the inherent thermal properties of a material, irrespective of its quantity. Heat capacity gives you the overall heat energy requirement for a specific sample of material, factoring in its mass or volume.
Though they offer different perspectives, both specific heat and heat capacity are crucial concepts in thermodynamics. They provide valuable insights into the energy interactions of substances and their responses to temperature changes.

## Comparison Chart

### Property Type

Intensive (independent of amount)
Extensive (depends on amount)

### Definition

Heat per unit mass to change temperature by 1°C
Total heat to change object's temperature by 1°C

### Dependence

Depends on material type
Depends on both material type and amount

### Application

Used to understand material's thermal property
Used to determine heat for specific object/sample

## Specific Heat and Heat Capacity Definitions

#### Specific Heat

Specific heat reveals how much energy a gram or kilogram of a substance needs to change its temperature by one degree.
Mercury's specific heat is lower than that of water.

#### Heat Capacity

Heat capacity is an extensive property, varying with the amount of material.
Two identical pots have different heat capacities if one is filled with water and the other is empty.

#### Specific Heat

Specific heat quantifies how a material responds to the addition or removal of heat.
Sand's lower specific heat makes beaches hot on sunny days.

#### Heat Capacity

Heat capacity gives insights into energy interactions of specific samples.
Measuring the heat capacity of a beverage helps in designing efficient cooling systems.

#### Specific Heat

Specific heat is the amount of heat per unit mass required to raise the temperature by one degree Celsius.
Water has a high specific heat, helping regulate Earth's climate.

#### Heat Capacity

Heat capacity indicates the overall thermal energy requirement for a particular sample.
A metal block's heat capacity determines how much energy it'll retain.

#### Specific Heat

Specific heat is an intensive property, not influenced by the amount of substance.
The specific heat of gold is constant regardless of the sample size.

#### Heat Capacity

Heat capacity reflects both a material's inherent properties and its mass or volume.
A large copper plate has a greater heat capacity than a small one.

#### Specific Heat

Specific heat characterizes the thermal properties of a substance on a per-unit basis.
Due to its specific heat, copper conducts heat quickly.

#### Heat Capacity

Heat capacity is the total amount of heat needed to change the temperature of an object by one degree Celsius.
The heat capacity of a swimming pool is much larger than a glass of water.

## FAQs

#### Does heat capacity change with the amount of substance?

Yes, it's an extensive property and depends on amount.

#### Why is specific heat important?

It helps understand how different materials absorb or release heat.

#### What is specific heat?

Specific heat is the heat required to change the temperature of a unit mass by one degree.

#### Is specific heat dependent on the amount of substance?

No, it's an intensive property and independent of amount.

#### How does heat capacity affect daily life?

Heat capacity determines how long objects stay warm or cold.

#### In which unit is heat capacity usually expressed?

Joules per degree Celsius (J/°C) or Joules per Kelvin (J/K).

#### How does water's specific heat impact the climate?

Water's high specific heat helps regulate Earth's temperatures.

#### Is specific heat temperature dependent?

It can be, especially near phase transitions.

#### Can two substances have the same specific heat?

Yes, but it's rare as specific heat is unique to material properties.

#### Can an object's heat capacity be changed?

Yes, by changing its mass or its material.

#### Why do large containers take longer to heat up or cool down?

Because they have a greater heat capacity.

#### Does heat capacity give information about a material's nature?

It provides insights, but also depends on the sample's size.

#### Are specific heat and heat capacity used in engineering?

Yes, they're crucial in designing heating and cooling systems.

#### Are specific heat and heat capacity the same?

No, specific heat is per unit mass, while heat capacity is for an entire object.

#### How is specific heat measured?

Typically in J/(g·°C) or J/(kg·K).

#### How does the heat capacity of a substance relate to its specific heat?

Heat capacity is the product of its specific heat and its mass.

#### Can specific heat be negative?

No, specific heat is always positive.

#### How is heat capacity defined?

Heat capacity is the total heat needed to change the temperature of an entire object by one degree.

#### Why is the heat capacity of large bodies of water significant?

It influences weather patterns and coastal climates.

#### Do metals generally have high or low specific heat?

Metals typically have low specific heat.