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Density, True Density & Tapped Density

Different Methods of Density measurements

Density is defined as mass per unit volume.

Analysis of sample mass can be simply and accurately performed using a balance, but analysis of sample volume, particularly of powders or irregularly shaped materials can be difficult and can be perceived and measured in more than one way:

  • as bulk volume with corresponding bulk density - includes volume of solid phase, plus volume of inter-particular space and pores within particles
  • as apparent/envelope/geometric volume giving apparent/envelope density - includes volume of solid phase plus pores within the particle
  • as true/skeletal volume for true density measurement - includes volume of solid phase only and any closed pores within that are not open to the outside surface

Corresponding measuring methods are:

  • Bulk Density - volume determined by the use of graduated cylinder, the cylinder can be tapped giving a measure of the so called Tapped Density
  • Apparent/envelope Density - volume of large geometric shapes easy to measure (ruler, calipers), volume of irregular shapes measured by powder pycnometry using a free flowing powder, volume of small, irregular shapes measured by mercury displacement
  • True Density - For regular shapes this is easy to measure using an accurate balance and a ruler, for irregular or fractured shapes we employ the Archimedean principle of fluid/gas displacement to measure the volume. The gas pycnometry operating principle is Gas Law: PV = nRT Where P is the gas pressure, V is the volume containing the gas, n is the number of moles of the gas, R is the universal gas constant and T is the temperature of the gas. Introducing a sample into an analysis chamber of a known volume we determine the volume of a gas displaced by the sample and true volume of the analysed material. Most commonly used gas is helium but other gasses are also possible.



Common applications: cement, pharmaceutical powders, catalysts, dairy powder, ceramics, metallic powders, nanocomposites

  • True Density measurement is one of the simplest and most economical methods of Quality Control, the measurement takes few minutes and can be highly automated.
  • Pycnometric or True Density analysis combined with Mercury porosimetry can provide a measure of materials’ porosity.
  • Gas Pycnometry can be used to determine percentage of solids in the slurry
  • Specialist applications allow the determination of open and closed cell porosity of rigid and semi rigid foams.


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