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Calorimetry Theory

Suppose that a cube of sugar is burned completely within the bomb of a calorimeter. How can an experimenter determine the heat released in that reaction?

To answer that question the assumption is made that all of the heat produced in the reaction is used to raise the temperature of the water in the surrounding jacket and the metalwalls of thebomb itself. The heat absorbed by each is equal to its mass multiplied by its specific heat multiplied by the temperature change (DT). Using a word equation to express this fact: heat released in reaction = (mass of water × specific heat of water × DT) + (mass of bomb × specific heat of bomb × DT). The last part of this equation, (mass of bomb × specific heat of bomb × DT), is the same for any given calorimeter. Once measured, it is known as a constant value and, therefore, is given the name of calorimeter constant.



Asimov, Isaac. Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science & Technology. 2nd revised edition. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1982, pp. 443-444.

Masterson, William L., Emil J. Slowinski, and Conrad L. Stanitski. Chemical Principles. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1983.

David E. Newton


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—The transfer of thermal energy that occurs between two objects when they are at different temperatures.


—An object or material that does not conduct heat or electricity well.

Specific heat

—The amount of heat needed to increase the temperature of a mass of material by one degree.


—A measure of the average kinetic energy of all the elementary particles in a sample of matter.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Calcium Sulfate to Categorical imperativeCalorimetry - History, The Calorimeter, Calorimetry Theory