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What burns more?

  1. Jun 16, 2011 #1
    Which is more likely to cause a serious burn, 100[itex]^{o}[/itex]C of water or an equal mass of 100[itex]^{o}[/itex]C of steam.

    I was thinking that because the steam has a lower heat capacity it would do less lamage as it has a lesser ability to transfer heat. Or has it got nothing to do with heat capacity? I am a bit confused.

    Or is is it to do with the thermal conductivity?
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2011 #2


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    The steam would actually have a higher total heat capacity, since it could condense into 100C water and release energy in the process (and then it would still be water at 100C). I suspect the water will give a more serious burn though, due to the higher thermal conductivity. Even though the steam has more energy, the water will conduct it into the skin of the person touching it much faster.
  4. Jun 16, 2011 #3
    Brilliant thank you.
  5. Jun 16, 2011 #4


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    Science Advisor

    The question is a bit odd as posed. Equal masses of steam and water were assumed, but what's the likelihod that the same mass of steam and water would contact the victim?
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