Specific Heat of a Metal
(Reference:  Kevin Anderson, Chemistry teacher, Lake Linden High School, Lake Linden, MI, 1998)


250 mL beaker for each group
Hotplates for each group
Calorimeter apparatus
Fine wire
1 5 g samples of metals: magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron

Specific Heat: The amount of thermal energy that must be added to raise the temperature of a unit mass of a substance through 1° C.


You will use the conservation of thermal energy (Heat lost = Heat gained) to determine the specific heat of a metal.


1. Record all measurements in the data table.
2. Fill a 250mL Pyrex beaker about half full of water and heat it until it boils.
3. While waiting for water to boil, measure and record the mass and specific heat of the calorimeter cup.  Fill the cup a little less than half full with cool water.
4. Measure mass of calorimeter cup and water.
5. Place cup in calorimeter jacket and cover it.
6. Measure the mass of the piece of metal.  Using fine wire, lower the metal into boiling water.  Leave it there for several minutes to be certain it is uniformly heated.
7. Measure and record temperature of cool water and cup.
8. Measure and record temperature of boiling water.  This is initial temperature of the metal sample.
9. Remove metal from water and quickly lower it into cool water.  Replace cover immediately.  Stir gently until the temperature is constant.  Record this final temperature.
10. Determine change in temperature for the metal.
11. Determine change in temperature for the cool water and calorimeter cup.


Specific heat of calorimeter (cal/g · °C) 0
Mass of calorimeter cup (g) 0
Mass of cup and cool water (g) 0
Mass of metal (g) 0
Initial temperature of cup and cool water (°C) 0
Initial temperature of metal (°C) 0
Final temperature of cup, metal, and water (°C) 0

Mass of cool water 0
Change in temperature for metal 0
Change in temperature for cool water and calorimeter cup 0
Specific heat of metal (cal/g · °C) 0


1. Determine the heat gained by the calorimeter cup and cool water.

2. Using the law of heat exchange, what is the heat gained by the metal?

3. Use the previous result to determine the specific heat of the metal.

4. Calculate the absolute and relative error between the specific heat you obtained with that published in a table.


(A) An introduction that introduces the theory and the experiment that will be used to test the theory.
(B) A procedure section that explains in a little more detail how the theory was tested.
(C) A results section that gives the primary result. This is where the results are discussed.  Percent error from the accepted value is usually included here.
(D) A conclusions section that states whether the results were accurate.  Be specific about possible sources of error.
(E) The last section of your report


 · Metals can be re-used

Ginger Chateauneuf, 2000.