In some cases density is expressed as the dimensionless quantities specific gravity (SG) or relative density (RD), in which case it is expressed in multiples of the density of some other standard material, usually water or air/gas.
In a well-known common story, Archimedes was given the task of determining whether King Hiero's goldsmith was embezzling gold during the manufacture of a wreath dedicated to the gods and replacing it with another, cheaper alloy.
Archimedes knew that the irregularly shaped wreath could be crushed into a cube whose volume could be calculated easily and compared with the weight; but the king did not approve of this.
Baffled, Archimedes took a relaxing immersion bath and observed from the rise of the warm water upon entering that he could calculate the volume of the gold crown through the displacement of the water. Allegedly, upon this discovery, he went running naked through the streets shouting, "Eureka! Eureka!" (Greek "I found it"). As a result, the term "eureka" entered common parlance and is used today to indicate a moment of enlightenment.
This story first appeared in written form in Vitruvius' books of architecture, two centuries after it supposedly took place. Some scholars have doubted the accuracy of this tale, saying among other things that the method would have required precise measurements that would have been difficult to make at the time.
Measurement of density
For a homogeneous object, the mass divided by the volume gives the density. The mass is normally measured with an appropriate scale or balance; the volume may be measured directly (from the geometry of the object) or by the displacement of a fluid. Hydrostatic weighing is a method that combines these two.
If the body is not homogeneous or heterogeneous, the density is a function of the coordinates , where dv is elementary volume with coordinates . The mass of the body then can be expressed as
where the integration is over the volume of the body V.
A very common instrument for the direct measurement of the density of a liquid is the hydrometer, which measures the volume displaced by an object of known mass. A common laboratory device for measuring fluid density is a pycnometer; a related device for measuring the absolute density of a solid is a gas pycnometer. Another instrument used to determine the density of a liquid or a gas is the digital density meter - based on the oscillating U-tube principle.
The density of a solid material can be ambiguous, depending on exactly how its volume is defined, and this may cause confusion in measurement. A common example is sand: if gently filled into a container, the density will be low; when the same sand is compacted into the same container, it will occupy less volume and consequently exhibit a greater density. This is because sand, like all powders and granular solids contains a lot of air space in between individual grains; this overall density is called the bulk density, which differs significantly from the density of an individual grain of sand.
The SI unit for density is:
Metric units outside the SI
These are all numerically equivalent to kg/L (1 kg/L = 1 kg/dm³ = 1 g/cm³ = 1 g/mL).
Changes of density
In general density can be changed by changing either the pressure or the temperature. Increasing the pressure will always increase the density of a material. Increasing the temperature generally decreases the density, but there are notable exceptions to this generalisation. For example, the density of water increases between its melting point at 0 °C and 4 °C and similar behaviour is observed in silicon at low temperatures.
The effect of pressure and temperature on the densities of liquids and solids is small so that a typical compressibility for a liquid or solid is 10 bar (1 bar=0.1 MPa) and a typical thermal expansivity is 10 K.
Density of water
Density of air
Density of solutions
The density of a solution is the sum of the mass (massic) concentrations of the components of that solution.
Density of composite material
ASTM specification D792-00 describes the steps to measure the density of a composite material.
Densities of various materials
Published - July 2009
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