Heat can be defined as energy transferred between matter because of differences in temperature. The ability of matter to transfer heat depends on its mass and temperature. A calorimeter is an instrument used to measure changes in heat energy. You can make a simple calorimeter using a Styrofoam cup to contain water, a beaker for more insulation and support, and a Temperature Probe to measure temperatures. The joule (J) is the SI unit for heat energy. An equation that can be used to calculate change in heat energy is

H = \Delta t \cdot m \cdot {C_p}

where H = heat absorbed or released (in J), Δt = change in temperature (in °C), m = mass (in g), and Cp = specific heat capacity (4.18 J/g°C for water).


In this experiment, you will

  • Construct and use a simple calorimeter.
  • Measure temperature.
  • Mix cold and warm water.
  • Determine heat lost by cooling water.
  • Determine heat gained by warming water.
  • Compare heat lost by cooling water and heat gained by warming water.