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Physics 1B

Specific Heat
Formal Lab
April 30, 2014

Lab group 5
William Randazzo
Free Trip
Stefhany Torres

In this lab, we set out to find the specific heat of a material by seeing how long it takes for the material, after
heating it up, to reach thermal equilibrium with water at room temperature. We then calculate our
experimental specific heat and see how it stands up against the standard specific heat for the material.


Iron block (u40860)
Thermometer (001281)
Hot plate (000730)
1. Record the mass of the iron block.
2. Record the mass of the inner can of the calorimeter and then fill it halfway with water, then record the mass
of the water and its temperature.
2. Fill another can with 2/3rds of water and then place it on a hot plate.
3. Set-up a stand so that the block can suspend in the can of water without touching the can, but fully
submerged in the water.
4. Boil the water.
5. Once the water is boiling, let the block stay there for at least 3 minutes.
6. Measure the temperature of the boiling water, then place the block in the inner can of the calorimeter.
Cover it and then monitor the temperature of the water inside the can. (Stir the water to promote heat
7. When the temperature of the water in the inner can stops changing, record its temperature

Mass of iron block: m
= 230.73g 0.01 g Temperature of hot water: T
= 100.0 C 0.1 C

Mass of inner can + stir: m
= 50.33 g 0.01 g Temperature cold water: T
= 23.2 C 0.1
Mass of water: m
= 230.16 g 0.01 g Temperature final: T
= 30.8 C 0.1

Specific Heat of aluminum: C
= 0.215

Specific Heat of water: C
= 1.0

Specific Heat of iron standard: C
= 0.107

Lab set up:


In this experiment the heat lost or released by an iron block to the cooler water can be expressed by

, where C
is the experimental value for the specific heat of the iron block. The
heat absorbed by the aluminum can and the water is

where C
is the specific heat of water. Then from

, we now get

. By solving for C
we are able to calculate the experimental value for the
specific heat of the iron block,

. Now plugging in our collected values we get


. By comparing our result for C

to C
, or the
standard value for the specific heat of iron we find the percent error which is



In this lab our calorimeter reached a final temperature of 30.8 degrees Celsius, which resulted in a specific
heat for the iron cube of 0.115 cal/g C. This was then compared to the accepted value of specific heat of iron
which is 0.107 cal/g C. The percent error was 7.5 % for this value. A possible cause of error is that the stirring
rod was difficult to get the block on. The stirring rod was important to make sure that the system energy
would reach the entire volume of the water. Another cause may be that there was some boiling water left on
top of the block after taking it out of the boiling water, even after wiping it. This would be another source of
heat and raise the temperature of the system slightly. Furthermore, although the objects all sat together in
the room, the room temperature may not have been exactly the temperature of all the objects. This is
especially true for the water, which may have been slightly colder out of the tap even though we let it sit to
come to thermal equilibrium with the surroundings.

Overall, the experimental value for the specific heat of iron was very close to the actual value. We obtained a
value of 0.115 cal/g C, whereas the specific heat of iron is accepted to be 0.107 cal/g C. The percent error of
this experimental value to the actual value is 7.5%.