Calorimetry Computer Simulation NEW html5 version

Calorimetry Computer Simulation is used to determine the heat exchanged in a variety of physical and chemical processes.   This computer simulation allows one to select the mass and initial temperature of various substances, mix the substances in a calorimeter, and record the final temperature.

   placing metals in water               mixing hot and cold water       

   mixing two different liquids

   heat of neutralization - mixing various acids and bases (strong acid + strong base, weak acid + strong base, etc.)

  heat of dissolution - dissolving ionic salts in water

  Hess' Law experiments

Computer animations of the physical process or chemical reaction at the particle level of representation (molecular scenes) are provided for a select few of the experiments.  Temperature vs. time graphs of each experiment are provided.

Calorimetry Computer Simulation  New HTML5 Version

©2016 Greenbowe, Abraham, Gelder  Chemistry Education Instructional Resources.  

University of Oregon, Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma, Pearson

This versatile computer simulation can be used as part of a lecture presentation, POGIL classroom activity, as a component of a laboratory experiment involving calorimetry, and thermochemistry, as an enhancement of lecture demonstrations, as a make-up laboratory experiment, as part of an end-of-chapter homework assignment, etc.

Curriculum Notes 

The big idea for all calorimetry processes is energy is conserved.  Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be exchanged.  In each calorimetry experiment something will release heat energy and something will gain heat energy.  The amount of heat energy released by something will be equal to the amount of heat energy absorbed by something.

qlostqgain = 0   or   qreleased + qgain = 0

Students experience difficulty learning thermochemistry concepts.  One can calculate the heat exchanged at constant pressure by a solution,

q = m c ∆T.   where m is the total mass of the solution, c is the specific heat of the solution and ∆T is the change in temperature of the solution (∆T = final temperature - initial temperature).

Calculating the limiting reactant, the change in enthalpy of the reaction, ∆Hrxn, can be determined since the reaction was conducted under conditions of constant pressure.  If the stoichiometry is 1:1, then

Hrxn = qrxn / # moles of limiting reactant    Hrxn is then reported with respect to the reaction as written.

This computer simulation can be used to illustrate how the amount of reactants reacting influences the heat exchanged, q, but does not influence H.

If the stoichiometry is not 1 : 1, then

Hrxn = qrxn / # moles of reaction

By combing this simulation with  a demonstration or experiment and a POGIL activity, students will be able to work with the three levels of representation: macroscopic, microscopic, and symbolic (Alex Johnstone).

Learning Objectives

1. Use experimental data to develop a conceptual understanding of the First Law of Thermodynamics and how to apply it to calorimeter experiments:

q lost + q gain = 0

2.  Ask a research question and design a series of experiments to provide data to answer the research question.  

3. Use experimental data to develop a relationship among the variables: heat, mass, specific heat, and change in temperature.

4. Identify whether the process is exothermic or endothermic.

5.  Identify what gains heat and what loses heat in a calorimetry experiment.

6.  For a physical process and for a chemical reaction explain how heat is transferred, released or absorbed, at the molecular level.

7. Calculate the heat gained or released by a solution, qsolution, involved in a given calorimetry experiment: total mass of the solution, specific heat of the solution, change in temperature of the solution: q = m c ∆T

8. If the calorimetry experiment is carried out under constant pressure conditions, calculate H for the reaction.

9. Given the change in enthalpy for a reaction, the amounts of reactants, and a balanced chemical equation, calculate the heat exchanged for a reaction. 

10. Show that the amounts of reactants that react influences q, the heat exchanged during an acid-base neutralization reaction, but does not influence, H for the reaction.

AP Chem Learning Objectives

Learning objective 5.4 The student is able to use conservation of energy to relate the magnitudes of the energy changes occurring in two or more interacting systems, including identification of the systems, the type (heat versus work), or the direction of energy flow.

Learning objective 5.5 The student is able to use conservation of energy to relate the magnitudes of the energy changes when two nonreacting substances are mixed or brought into contact with one another.

Learning objective 5.6 The student is able to use calculations or estimations to relate energy changes associated with heating/cooling a substance to the heat capacity,

Making this computer simulation interactive - active learning

The instructor should "frame" the instructional activity accompanying this computer simulation.  Use one of the calorimetry POGIL activities.

Student have difficulties with several concepts associated with thermochemistry (see reference #1 below).

Students do not have difficulty with the idea that the amount of reactants influences the heat exchanged, but they do have difficulty applying this concept.

There are several calorimetry lecture demonstrations that can be used to accompany this computer simulation.

There are several in-class POGIL-like activity to accompany this computer simulation.

There are a set of interactive guided-inquiry Power Point slides to accompany this computer simulation.

There are clicker questions that can accompany this computer simulation if this computer simulation is used in class.



1. Greenbowe, T.J. and Meltzer, D.E. (2003). “Student Learning of Thermochemical Concepts in the Context of Solution Calorimetry.” International Journal of Science Education25(7), 779-800.

2.   JW Russell, RB Kozma, T Jones, J Wykoff, N Marx, J Davis (1997).  Use of simultaneous-synchronized macroscopic, microscopic, and symbolic representations to enhance the teaching and learning of chemical concepts   J. Chem. Educ 74 (3), 330.

3.  Johnstone, A.H. 1993.  The development of chemistry teaching" A changing response to changing demand.  Journal of Chemical Education, 70(9), p. 701-705.

© Copyright 2012 Email: Randy Sullivan, University of Oregon Chemistry Department and UO Libraries Interactive Media Group