Physics 20 Resources


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Specific Heat Applications

Water has a high specific heat capacity, and therefore has several important applications.

1. Car Radiators

Water is used as a coolant in car radiators. Water can absorb a large amount of heat before it boils because water has a high specific heat capacity. An engine produces a lot of heat when running, so the heat must be removed. Water is circulated throughout the engine where it absorbs the heat. This water is then pumped to a radiator where the heat is released to the metal core of the radiator, which then releases the heat to the surrounding air.

car radiator

2. Ocean Breeze

Water has a much higher specific heat capacity than sand, therefore it takes more energy to heat the water than the sand. The air above the sand heats up faster and rises while cool air above the ocean comes in to take its place. Thus a breeze coming from the ocean toward the sand beach occurs on a hot day. What direction do you think the breeze is at night when the ocean water is warmer than the cool sand?

ocean breeze


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