Thermodynamics: Specific Heat

Determine the specific heat of a metal object and identify the metal based on its specific heat.

Using a temperature vs time graph to determine the change in temperature allows your students to quickly get results, and it gives you opportunity to discuss concepts like thermal mixing.

Lab Summary

The relationship between temperature and heat can be very perplexing to students. In this activity your students will measure a change in temperature to show a transfer of heat energy. With careful measurement of mass and temperature change they will build a very physical understanding of heat transfer the capacity of different metals to absorb and release heat energy (specific heat).


When a metal object of known mass and known initial temperature is placed in a known mass of water of a known initial temperature, the change in temperature of the system can be used to calculate the specific heat of the metal.



Use a Temperature Probe to measure the change in temperature of a known amount of water when a sample of metal of known mass and initial temperature is put into the water.

Here's What You Need

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PASPORT Fast Response Temperature Probe (3 pack) (PS-2135) - $29

Allows students to see changes in temperature they could never see before. For use with PASPORT and ScienceWorkshop Interfaces.

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Xplorer GLX (PS-2002) - $389

The Xplorer GLX is a data collection, graphing, and analysis tool designed for science students and educators.

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Other Products

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Basic Calorimetry Set (TD-8557A) - $129

Students can determine the specific heat of a substance, the latent heats of vaporization, and fusion of water.

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Ohaus Triple-Beam Balance (without Tare) (SE-8723) - $158

This Ohaus triple-beam mechanical balance (without tare) is accurate and easy to use. This balance has been a standard weighing instrument in student laboratories for decades.

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Graduated Cylinder, 50 ml (12 Pack) (SE-7289) - $119

This 50 ml Graduated Cylinder is borosillicate student-grade glassware for use in the physics lab. Package of 12.

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Braided Physics String (SE-8050) - $25

This string is tough, resists stretching, and will not unravel. Provides 320 meters of string.

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Other Materials

  • Stir rod
  • Towel
  • Water, 300 mL
  • Ice, cubed or crushed, 100 mL

Lab Manual

This activity is included in Physics with the Xplorer GLX (PS-2826), complete with Teacher Information pages, student instructions and handouts, and sample data for a total of 35 probeware-based labs. For your convenience, we offer bundles which provide the probeware necessary for the activities in the manual. For more information on these resources and bundles, click here.