heat

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

heat

heat, nonmechanical energy in transit, associated with differences in temperature between a system and its surroundings or between parts of the same system.

Measures of Heat

Temperature is a measure of the average translational kinetic energy of the molecules of a system. Heat is commonly expressed in either of two units: the calorie, an older metric unit, and the British thermal unit (Btu), an English unit commonly used in the United States. Scientists express heat in terms of the joule, a unit used for all forms of energy.

Specific Heat

As heat is added to a substance in the solid state, the molecules of the substance gain kinetic energy and the temperature of the substance rises. The amount of heat needed to raise a unit of mass of the substance one degree of temperature is called the specific heat of the substance. Because of the way in which the calorie and the Btu are defined, the specific heat of any substance is the same in either system of measurement. For example, the specific heat of water is 1 calorie per gram per degree Celsius; i.e., 1 calorie of heat is needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius; it is also 1 Btu per pound per degree Fahrenheit.

Heat of Fusion

When a solid reaches a certain temperature, it changes to a liquid. This temperature is a particular property of the substance and is called its melting point. While the solid-liquid transition is taking place, there is no change in temperature. All of the heat being added is being converted to the internal potential energy associated with the liquid state. The amount of heat needed to convert one unit of mass of a substance from a solid to liquid is called the heat of fusion, or latent heat of fusion, of the substance. Like specific heat, latent heat is also a property of the particular substance. The latent heat of fusion for the ice-to-water transition is 80 calories per gram.

Heat of Vaporization

After a substance is completely changed from a solid to a liquid, further addition of heat again causes the temperature to rise until it reaches the boiling point, the particular temperature at which the given substance changes from a liquid to a gas. During the liquid-gas transition, the temperature remains constant until the change is completed. The heat of vaporization, or latent heat of vaporization, is the heat that must be added to convert one unit of mass of the substance from a liquid to a gas.

Transfer of Heat

Heat may be transferred from one substance to another by three means—conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction involves the transfer of energy from one molecule to adjacent molecules without the substance as a whole moving. Convection involves the movement of warmer parts of a substance away from the source of heat and takes place only in fluids, i.e., liquids and gases. Radiation is the transfer of heat energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation, principally in the infrared radiation portion of the spectrum.

Study and Analysis of Heat

The study of heat and its relationship to useful work is called thermodynamics and involves macroscopic quantities such as pressure, temperature, and volume without regard for the molecular basis of these quantities. Low-temperature physics is concerned with phenomena that occur at extremely low temperatures. The analysis of heat on the basis of the structure of matter is considered in the kinetic-molecular theory of gases and provides an explanation for the various gas laws. The gas laws in turn serve to define an absolute temperature scale based on theoretical considerations (see Kelvin temperature scale).

Bibliography

See M. C. Mott-Smith, Heat and Its Workings (1933, repr. 1962); R. Becker, Theory of Heat (tr. 1967).

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