Latent Heat of State Change


This topic is part of the HSC Physics course under the section Thermodynamics.

HSC Physics Syllabus

  • conduct an investigation to analyse qualitatively and quantitatively the latent heat involved in a change of state 

What is Latent Heat?

Latent heat is the amount of energy, in the form of heat, that is absorbed or released by a substance during a phase change, without any change in temperature. The word "latent" means hidden, suggesting that even though the substance is absorbing or releasing heat, this doesn't manifest as a temperature change. This is because the heat being absorbed is not being used to increase the kinetic energy of the particles. Rather, it is being used to overcome the intermolecular attractions between the particles and increase the distance between them.

There are two main types of latent heat:

  1. Latent Heat of Fusion: The energy required to change a substance from solid to liquid (or vice versa) without changing its temperature. For instance, when ice melts, it absorbs heat from the surroundings but remains at 0°C until fully melted.

  2. Latent Heat of Vaporisation: The energy required to change a substance from liquid to gas (or vice versa) without a temperature change. An example is boiling water: the water remains at 100°C until it has completely turned into steam.

The Mathematical Aspect

The energy Q required to change the phase of a substance can be calculated using the equation:


  • `Q` is the energy (in joules, J)
  • `m` is the mass of the substance (in kilograms, kg)
  • `L` is the specific latent heat (in joules per kilogram, J/kg)

The specific latent heat, `L`, is a property unique to each substance and phase change.

Example 1: Melting Ice

Suppose you have 100 g (0.1 kg) of ice at 0°C and you want to melt it. The latent heat of fusion for water is . How much energy is required to melt the ice?



$$Q = m \times L$$

$$Q = 0.1 \times 334000 = 33400 \, \text{J}$$

Example 2: Boiling Water

Imagine you have 200 g (0.2 kg) of water at 100°C. The latent heat of vaporisation for water is . How much energy is needed to completely evaporate this amount of water?



$$Q = m \times L$$


RETURN TO MODULE 3: Waves and Thermodynamics