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Which will be a better cold compress, water or ethanol; Why are steam burns more severe?

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1. Which will be a better cold compress, water or ethanol? Explain (specific heats for water and ethanol are 1.00 cal/g. degrees Celsius. and .59 cal/g. degrees Celsius respectively?

2.Why is that steam burns are more severe than burns from water?

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The reason for using ethanol as a cold compress has more to do with the ethanol's latent heat than with its heat capacity (though it low heat capacity helps as we shall see).

Cooling of an object by conduction occurs when the cooling liquid evaporates. However, to evaporate a liquid it's not enough to bring it to the boiling point. We need to invest extra heat to make it go through a phase transition (from liquid to gas). This extra heat is called "latent heat". When a liquid reaches it boiling point and more ...

Solution Summary

The effectiveness of different cold compresses and why steam burns are worse than water burns are explained as they relate to latent heat and phase transitions.