Engineering Question #861

Jenn, a 18 year old female from Torrance asks on July 27, 2002,

What is the composition of an American nickel? Also, do you think that a nickel has a higher specific heat than a penny does? Please help ... I can't find the information anywhere! Thanks!!

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on July 29, 2002

According to the US Mint website, a US nickel is an alloy composed of 25% Nickel (specific heat 0.105 Cal/(g deg. C) and 75% copper (sp. heat = 0.092). A penny is made of zinc that is copper plated. If you look up the specific heat of zinc (0.0915) you can compare it with the alloy and it looks to me like the nickel/copper alloy has a slightly higher specific heat.

NOTE: according to officials at the US mint, the new 2004 American nickel has the same 75% copper/25% nickel composition as previous nickels.

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