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Kinetic Energy and Temperature

Kinetic Energy and Temperature

Lab Tool - Bunsen BurnerIntroduction: In our everyday lives, we use temperature to gauge whether it will be incredibly cold, incredibly hot, or a manageable temperature outdoors. This idea of temperature, however, is actually a measure of the average kinetic energy (energy of motion) of particles in a specific sample. Even though we think of heat as being associated with temperature, heat differs, in that heat measures the total energy of the motion of molecules of a substance, rather than the average kinetic energy.

In considering heat, it is important to consider how the motion of the molecules changes with variations in temperature. In general, an increase in temperature will lead to an increase in the average kinetic energy of the particles in a sample, usually corresponding to particles moving faster. On the other hand, decreases in temperature correspond to particles moving more slowly in a sample of matter as a result of a decrease in average kinetic energy. Temperature, not being a form of energy in and of itself but rather a measure, can be measured in ºC (degrees Celsius) or K (Kelvins) in chemistry. This concept can be applied to all phases and forms of matter.


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