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Chemistry LibreTexts


Calorimetry is the process of measuring the amount of heat released or absorbed during a chemical reaction. By knowing the change in heat, it can be determined whether or not a reaction is exothermic (releases heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat). Calorimetry also plays a large part of everyday life, controlling the metabolic rates in humans and consequently maintaining such functions like body temperature.

  • Constant Pressure Calorimetry
    Because calorimetry is used to measure the heat of a reaction, it is a crucial part of thermodynamics. In order to measure the heat of a reaction, the reaction must be isolated so that no heat is lost to the environment. This is achieved by use of a calorimeter, which insulates the reaction to better contain heat. Coffee cups are often used as a quick and easy to make calorimeter for constant pressure. More sophisticated bomb calorimeters are built for use at constant volumes.
  • Constant Volume Calorimetry
    Constant Volume (bomb) calorimetry, is used to measure the heat of a reaction while holding volume constant and resisting large amounts of pressure. Although these two aspects of bomb calorimetry make for accurate results, they also contribute to the difficulty of bomb calorimetry. Here, the basic assembly of a bomb calorimeter will be addressed, as well as how bomb calorimetry relates to the heat of reaction and heat capacity and the calculations involved in regards to these two topics.
  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry
    Differential scanning calorimetry is a specific type of calorimetry including both a sample substance and a reference substance, residing in separate chambers. While the reference chamber contains only a solvent, the sample chamber contains an equal amount of the same solvent in addition to the substance of interest, of which the ΔH is being determined. The ΔH due to the solvent is constant in both chambers, so any difference can be attributed to the presence of the substance of interest.
  • Heat Capacity
    The heat capacity of a defined system is the amount of heat (usually expressed in calories, kilocalories, or joules) needed to raise the system's temperature by one degree (usually expressed in Celsius or Kelvin). It is expressed in units of thermal energy per degree temperature. To aid in the analysis of systems having certain specific dimensions, molar heat capacity and specific heat capacity can be used. To measure the heat capacity of a reaction, a calorimeter must be used.