Density Measurement

Density Measurement

Use your balance and a Density Kit to determine the density of solid, liquid and viscous substances

What's the best method for determining the density of solids?

The best procedures for density determination of solids are the buoyancy and displacement methods, both of which are based on Archimedes' Principle. Prerequisite for these methods is the use of a liquid with known density that does not react with the sample material, but wets it thoroughly. A wetting agent can be added to the liquid.

There are lots of steps in the density measurement procedure. How can it be simplified?

The integrated balance application provides step-by-step instructions. Excellence level balances have workflows for 5 different density determination methods. Advanced and Standard level balances have workflows for 2.

What do I need to determine the density of liquids?

In conjunction with the Density Kit, the optional 10 mL glass sinker enables you to determine the density of liquids. The difference of the weight of the sinker in air and in the liquid is used to calculate the density. Alternatively, a pycnometer or digital density meter can be used.

The density of my sample is less than water – it floats!

The weighing basket on the Density Kit can be inverted so that lighter samples are held under the liquid and cannot float to the surface. If you experience that the buoyancy force is greater than the basket apparatus, place an additional weight on the top weighing pan of the Density Kit and restart the density determination procedure. Alternatively, use a different reference liquid with a lower density.

I have problems with lots of bubbles on my sample.

Add a few drops of wetting agent to the reference liquid. Leave it standing overnight to release any dissolved gas. Use a soft brush to brush the bubbles off the sample and the Density Kit.

Which balance do I need to use to get accurate density results?

The accuracy of density measurement is influenced by the tolerance of the method (air bubbles etc.) and the temperature measurement as well as the accuracy of the weight measurements. Every measurement on ANY balance is subject to uncertainty. Understanding this uncertainty is the key to ensuring accurate weighing results. It is not the readability that determines the accuracy of a weighing instrument, but rather its repeatability and the minimum net sample weight.

To find the appropriate balance for your needs, you need to know the smallest amount you want to weigh and how accurately you need to weigh it (i.e. at what tolerance).

METTLER TOLEDO's global weighing standard, GWP® helps you choose the right balance to meet your application requirements. Ask your local representative for a free balance recommendation. Determine if your existing balance meets your quality requirements.

GWP Recommendation

I have to determine the density of solid plastic samples and need to comply with ISO 1183-1. Which balance or scale can I use?

ISO 1183-1 compliance requires a balance with a readability of 0.1 mg or less and specifies that the sample should preferably have a mass of at least 1 g. Weighing samples of at least 1 g on a balance with readability 0.1 mg will not generally violate the minimum net sample weight requirement of the balance. The required balance accuracy however, should be considered in conjunction with your required process tolerance. Our free GWP® Recommendation service can help you select the right balance for your specific needs.

GWP Recommendation

I have problems to follow the complicated procedure.

There are several steps in the density measurement process, and sometimes you need to wait a while for the balance to settle so it can be easy to get lost off, especially when you are busy with multiple tasks. The integrated balance application provides step-by-step instructions. You confirm each instruction by pressing the OK button, so you always know where you are.

How can improve traceability of my density measurements?

Connect a barcode reader to your balance to enable meta-data, such as sample ID, lot number and order number etc. to be read-in directly without any errors. With the METTLER TOLEDO P-50 line of printers, the meta-data, plus the date and time of the measurement, can be printed out alongside the results.

How can I evaluate the measurement results of several samples?

When you have a series of density determinations to make, the statistics option on METTLER TOLEDO balances enables you to quickly identify trends in your data assisting you to make decisions on a course of action where appropriate.

Where can I find a table of density values?

XPE, XSE, MS-TS, ML-T and ME-T balances have a built-in density database for the most commonly used reference liquids. The density value is adjusted according to the temperature you input.

How can I avoid error in my density calculations?

The density application on XPE, XSE and MS-TS balances does all the calculations for you. You only need to input the temperature and select the reference liquid used. The balance records the weight values and calculates the density automatically.

How can I make documenting my density results easier?

The density application on MS-TS, ML-T and ME-T balances allows you to create a report of your density determination series which you can print out or save on a USB stick. XPE and XSE balances in combination with LabX software offer a higher degree of report customization with graphs and charts, and the report can be sent straight to your LIMS or EPR.

Density Measurement in Laboratory

Jump to one of the following section to explore and learn more:

  1. Application Workflow and Challenges
  2. METTLER TOLEDO Solutions
  3. FAQ's


Workflow of Density Measurement

The solid is weighed in air (A) and then again (B) in the auxiliary liquid with a known density. The density of the solid ρ can be calculated as follows:

Calculation formula for density in solid sample

ρ        = Density of the sample

A        = Weight of the sample in air

B        = Weight of the sample in the auxiliary liquid

ρ0       = Density of the auxiliary liquid

ρL       = Density of air

The temperature of the liquid must be taken into account as this can cause density changes of the order of magnitude 0.001 to 0.1 per °C, the effect
of which can be seen in the third decimal place of the result.

 Gravimetrická, vztlakGravimetrická, výtlakPyknometerLaboratórny hustomer 
Metódy Kadička pre pomocnú kvapalinu stojí na plošine alebo pod váhou.Kadička pre pomocnú kvapalinu stojí na váhe.Sklenená kadička so známym objemom.Technológia oscilačnej trubice
Vhodná pre
  • pevné látky

  • kvapaliny (s pomocným skleneným telieskom)
  • pastovité látky (s gamaguľou);

  • kvapaliny (s pomocným skleneným telieskom);
    pevné látky
  • kvapaliny, disperzie

  • prášok
  • granulát
  • kvapaliny
  • plyny
  • Rýchly proces

  • Flexibilný s ohľadom na veľkosť vzorky

  • Vážiace prístroje sú už k dispozícií
  • Rýchly proces

  • Vážiace prístroje sú už k dispozícií
  • Presná metóda
  • Vážiace prístroje sú už k dispozícií 
  • Rýchly proces

  • Presná regulácia teploty prostredníctvom Peliteorvých článkov
  • Automatické meranie hustoty

  • Malé objemy vzoriek
  • Citlivosť na teplotu

  • Vzorka musí byť veľmi dôkladne namočená

  • Nesmie dochádzať k zachyteniu  vzduchových bublín
  • Citlivosť na teplotu

  • Nutnosť vzoriek veľkého objemu
  • Citlivosť na teplotu

  • Náročnosť na prácu

  • Časovo náročné

  • Nesmie dochádzať k zachyteniu vzduchových bublín
  • U viskóznych vzoriek je potrebné vykonať korekciu viskozity (k dispozícií v moderných prístrojoch).

Click Here to Learn More on Density Measurement

If you know the mass and volume of a sample (solids or liquids), its density can be calculated from:

Calculation of density by mass and volume

The Difficulty with Volume

It's quite simple to weigh a sample accurately, but determining the volume of a sample accurately can be challenging.


The buoyancy method avoids the problem of determining volume because it involves weighing the sample twice in two different mediums (air and a liquid). The volume can therefore be assumed to be constant in both situations.


In the simplest application of the displacement method, the volume of a solid sample is determined by observing the increase in the level of the liquid in which the sample is submerged.
Conversely, when an object of known volume is submerged in a liquid with unknown density, the difference in the weight values (in air and in the liquid) can be used to determine the density of the liquid.


A pycnometer is a specially designed glass flask, usually with a defined volume. It is most often used to determine the density of liquids. The pycnometer is first weighed empty and then full of the liquid under investigation. The difference (i.e. the mass of the sample) divided by the volume of the pycnometer is the density of the sample.
The pycnometer method can also be used for determining the density of powder samples or granulates.

Digital Density Meter

A hollow glass tube vibrates at a certain frequency. The frequency changes when the tube is filled with different substances: the higher the mass of the sample, the lower the frequency. Digital density meters work by measuring the frequency and converting it into density.

Please see the table below for a comparison of these four different methods.

 Gravimetric, BuoyancyGravimetric, DisplacementPycnometerDigital Density Meter
MethodsBeaker for auxiliary liquid stands on a platform or below the balance.Beaker for auxiliary liquid stands on the balance.Glass beaker of defined volume.Oscillating tube technology
Suitable for
  • Solids
  • Liquids (with glass sinker)
  • Pasty substances(with gamma sphere)
  • Liquids (with glass sinker)
  • Liquids, Dispersions
  • Powder
  • Granules
  • Liquids
  • Gases
Measuring principle for
a solid sample
The sample is weighed once in air and once immersed in the auxiliary liquid with known density.

Density of the solid sample can be determined from the known density of the liquid and the two mass values.

ρ,= Density of the sample
A,= Weight of the sample in air
B,= Weight of the sample in the auxiliary liquid
ρ0,= Density of the auxiliary liquid
ρL,= Density of air
The auxiliary liquid with known density is weighed before and after immersing the sample (tare can be used to measure mass difference directly).

Using the mass difference and the liquid density the volume of the sample can be determined. This is then used together with the mass of the sample to calculate its density.
The pycnometer is first weighed empty and then again full with the reference liquid of known density. The powder is added to the cleaned and dried pycnometer. It is weighed to determine the weight of the powder sample. The pycnometer is then topped up with the same liquid in which the powder must be completely insoluble. The pycnometer is weighed again. The weight of the displaced liquid can then be determined, and hence the density of the powder calculated.n/a
Measuring principle for
a liquid sample
The reference body with known volume (glass sinker) is weighed once in air and once in the liquid with unknown density.

Density of the liquid can be determined from the known volume of the reference body and the two mass values.

ρ,= Density of the liquid sample
α,= Weight correction factor (0.99985), to take the atmospheric buoyancy of the adjustment weight into account
A,= Weight of the reference body in air
B,= Weight of the reference body in the liquid
V,= Known volume of the reference body
ρL,= Density of air
The weight of the liquid with the unknown density is measured before (tare) and after immersing the reference body (gamma sphere or glass sinker).

Using the mass difference and the known volume of the reference body, the density of the liquid sample can be determined.
The pycnometer is first weighed empty and then again full with the liquid sample. The mass difference divided by the volume of the pycnometer is the density of the liquid.The sample is added to a U-shaped hollow glass tube in the device. The density of the sample is determined by measuring the frequency of vibration of the tube. The lower the frequency of vibration, the higher the density of the sample.


Density Standards

Many standards and norms exist for density determination. Some of the most commonly used are:

  • ISO 1183-1: Plastics — Methods for determining the density of non-cellular plastics
  • OIML G 14: Density measurement according OIML
  • ASTM-D-792: Standard Test Methods for Density and Specific Gravity Standard

ISO 1183-1 specifies the use of a 4-decimal place analytical balance.

The Confusion with Bulk Density

Bulk density is a measure of how many particles, parts or pieces are contained within a measured volume. Bulk density is not a property of the material itself. Bulk density includes the spaces between the particles or items as well as any voids within the items themselves. Bulk density can vary depending on how the material is handled; shaking a container, for example, allows parts to settle, increasing the overall bulk density.

Density measurement - expert

Moisture Content Determination

Density determination for plastics quality

Extended Data Management and Process Security

The combination of a METTLER TOLEDO Excellence level balance and LabX software offers a higher level of data management and process security. Excellence analytical and precision balances can be set up with a Density Kit for density determination. LabX ensures that your density SOP is followed precisely. LabX records all weight values, performs all calculations and saves all results securely in a central database. All the data related to your density application can be transferred directly to your internal data management system.


Digital Density Meters



FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions on Density Measurement

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