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What is Heat of Combustion?

moorland fire

Heat of combustion is the energy generated by combustion of a unit mass of fuel. In practice this is usually the chemical reaction of a hydrocarbon fuel with oxygen, although other types of fuel and oxidant can have a heat of combustion value. It is also known as the calorific value or heating value of a fuel. For fuels delivered in gaseous form it is usually more useful to measure the volumetric heat of combustion.

The heat of combustion of a fuel is measured using a device called a bomb calorimeter. It can also be deduced analytically if the composition of the fuel can be determined.

Depending on the thermodynamic boundary conditions, a number of calorific values can be defined. The gross calorific value (higher heating value) includes the heat used in raising the temperature of the combustion products, and is also sometimes known as the thermodynamic heat of combustion. The net calorific value (lower heating value) can be obtained by disregarding the heat of vaporization of any water vapour produced (which may include combustion products and any water present in the fuel prior to combustion).

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