Latent heat involves energy absorbed or released during phase changes, while sensible heat pertains to temperature changes without phase transitions.

TL;DR Latent heat Vs. Sensible heat

Latent heat refers to the amount of thermal energy absorbed or released during a phase transition, such as evaporation or condensation. It is associated with changes in the molecular structure or arrangement of a substance without altering its temperature.

Sensible heat relates to changes in temperature that can be directly measured using a thermometer. It is associated with heating or cooling effects that we can physically perceive through our senses.

Sensible heat transfer occurs when there is direct contact between two objects at different temperatures.

What is latent heat?

picture depicting laten heat - ice melting

Latent heat is the energy absorbed or released by a substance during a phase change, such as melting, freezing, vaporization, or condensation. It doesn’t cause temperature change but alters the molecular structure.

When a substance changes phases, it absorbs energy as it moves from a solid to liquid or liquid to gas, and releases energy when transitioning from gas to liquid or liquid to solid.

This energy exchange is critical for processes like weather formation, where water vapor condenses to form clouds, releasing latent heat and impacting atmospheric dynamics.

What is sensible heat?

picture depicting sensible heat

Sensible heat refers to the heat energy that can be measured or sensed by a thermometer. It is the heat that causes a change in temperature without changing the state of matter. In other words, it is the heat we feel and experience on a day-to-day basis.

When you step outside on a hot summer day, you can feel the sensible heat radiating from the sun. The warmth of your morning cup of coffee or the cozy feeling when you sit near a fireplace are all examples of sensible heat.

Unlike latent heat, which is associated with phase changes such as melting or boiling, sensible heat does not involve any change in state. It simply involves an increase or decrease in temperature.

Latent heat Vs. Sensible heat – Key differences

AspectLatent HeatSensible Heat
DefinitionEnergy absorbed/released during phase changesEnergy involved in temperature changes
Phase ChangesRelates to melting, vaporization, condensationRelates to warming or cooling without phase change
Temperature ChangeDoesn't cause temperature changeDirectly causes temperature change
Molecular ChangeAlters molecular structure during phase transitionsNo change in molecular structure
Heat ExchangeNo temperature change during phase transitionCauses temperature rise or fall
Energy ExchangeSignificant energy involvedLesser energy compared to latent heat
ExamplesWater boiling, ice meltingHeating a room, cooling a drink
ApplicationClimate processes, cloud formationTemperature control, heat transfer
ImportanceVital for weather, energy storageAffects comfort, heating, cooling processes


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