Standard Article

Measurement of Mass and Density

  1. Richard S. Davis

Published Online: 15 MAR 2011

DOI: 10.1002/3527600434.eap220.pub2

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

How to Cite

Davis, R. S. 2011. Measurement of Mass and Density. Encyclopedia of Applied Physics. 137–156.

Author Information

  1. Bureau International des Poids et Mesures, Sèvres cedex, France

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2011


The principal analytical techniques for measuring mass and density are presented. These are put in the broader context of the meaning of these quantities and the units in which they are commonly measured. The importance of legal metrology to analytical weighing is emphasized. The basic features of servocontrolled analytical balances are presented, as well as precautions required to exploit these instruments to their full potential. These include the need to correct for air buoyancy, and to minimize extraneous effects of thermal gradients, air currents, and electrostatic and magnetic forces. Mass determinations far beyond the upper and lower ranges of analytical balances are also discussed briefly. Among the density techiques presented are hydrostatic weighing (two methods), various types of pycnometry including the vibrating-tube densimeter, and methods based on neutral buoyancy.


  • mass metrology;
  • density metrology;
  • relative density;
  • balances;
  • buoyancy correction;
  • equivalence principle;
  • Archimedes' principle