# How to Calculate Relative Density

## 1. Introduction

In this article, we will look into how to calculate the relative density of substances and also explain everything you need to know about relative density.

In various scientific disciplines, the concept of relative density helps us to understand the behaviour and characteristics of different substances. Therefore, this article aims to provide in-depth information on relative density, its calculation methods, and its applications across different fields.

## 2. What is Relative Density

Definition: The relative density (R.D.) of a substance is the ratio of the mass or weight of any volume of it to the mass or weight of an equal volume of water. The second name for relative density is specific gravity. Additionally, relative density is a dimensionless quantity that provides valuable insights into the composition, properties, and behaviour of materials.

### SI Unit of Relative Density

The SI unit of relative density is dimensionless, as it is a ratio of two densities. Relative density does not have any specific unit since it is a comparative measure of the density of a substance to that of a reference substance.

## 3. Formula for Relative Density

The formula for calculating relative density is as follows:

### Formula for relative density in solids

1. Relative density of solids (R.D) = (Mass of substance, Ms) / (Mass of equal volume of water, Mw)
2. We also have Relative density of solids (R.D) = (Weight of substance, Ms) / (Weight of equal volume of water, Ww)
3. Additionally, Relative density of solids (R.D) = (Density of substance, Ds) / (Density of an equal volume of water, Dw)
4. Relative density of solids (R.D) = (Weight of an object in the air, Wa) / (Weight of an equal volume of water, Ww)
5. The Relative density of solids (R.D) = (Weight of an object in the air, Wa) / (upthrust of object in water, Uw)

## The formula for relative density in liquids

1. Relative density of liquids = (Mass of substance) / (Mass of equal volume of water)
2. The Relative density of liquids = (Volume of liquid displaced by object, VL) / (Volume of water displaced by the same object, Vw)
3. Relative density of Liquid = (Apparent loss of weight of a solid in liquid) / (Apparent loss of weight of same solid in water)

The above relative density equations allow us to calculate the relative density of a substance by dividing its density by the density of a reference substance, typically water. Relative density, also known as specific gravity, is a dimensionless quantity that provides valuable insights into the composition, properties, and behaviour of materials.

Using this formula, we can compare the densities of different substances and gain a better understanding of their relative weights and buoyancy.

## 4. How to Find Relative Density

Finding the relative density of a substance involves a straightforward calculation using its density and the density of a reference substance, typically water. Therefore, to determine the relative density, we need to follow these steps:

1. Measure the density of the substance using an appropriate method or instrument.
2. Measure the density of the reference substance, typically water, using the same units of measurement.
3. Divide the density of the substance by the density of the reference substance.
4. The result will be the relative density of the substance.

Remember that relative density is a dimensionless quantity and does not have any units. Therefore, it provides a comparison of the density of the substance to that of the reference substance. Thus, by following this calculation process, you can determine the relative density and gain insights into the composition, behaviour, and buoyancy of different materials.

### Solved Problems: How to Calculate Relative Density

#### Problem 1

An object weighs 10.0N in air and 7.0N in water. What is its weight when immersed in a liquid of a relative density (R.D) 1.5?

##### Solution

Data:

Relative density (R.D) of liquid = 1.5,

Weight of object in the air, Wa = 10N

The weight of an object in water, Ww = 7N

Upthrust of an object in water, Uw = Wa – Ww = 10 – 7 = 3N

The upthrust of an object in liquid, UL = R.D x Uw = 1.5 x 3 = 4.5N

Unknown:

Weight of object in liquid, WL = ?

Formula:

Since upthrust = weight in air – weight in fluid

Therefore, we will use the formula: Weight of object in liquid (WL) = Weight in air (Wa) – upthrust in liquid (UL)

Therefore, the formula is WL = Wa – UL

Weight of object in liquid, WL = Wa – UL = 10 – 4.5 = 5.5N

#### Problem 2

A rectangular block of wood floats in water with two-thirds of its volume immersed. When placed in another liquid, it floats with half of its volume immersed. Calculate the relative density of the liquid.

##### Solution

Data:

The volume of block immersed in water (Vw) = (2/3)V

Volume of block immersed in liquid (VL) = (1/2)L

Unknown:

Relative density, R.D = ?

Formula:

R.D = VL / Vw

R.D = VL / Vw = (1/2)V / (2/3)V = 3/4 = 0.75

Therefore, the relative density of the block is 0.75

#### Problem 3

The mass of a specific gravity bottle is 15.2g when it is empty. It is 24.8g when filled with kerosene and 27.2g when filled with distilled water. Calculate the relative density of kerosene.

##### Solution

Data:

The mass of an empty bottle, m = 15.2g

Mass of a bottle with kerosene, mk = 24.8g

The mass of the bottle with water, mw = 27.2g

Unknown:

Relative density of kerosene, R.D = ?

Formula:

R.D = (mk – m) / (mw – m)

R.D = (mk – m) / (mw – m) = (24.8 – 15.2) / (27.2 – 15.2) = 9.6 / 12 = 0.8

Therefore, the relative density of the kerosene is 0.8

#### Problem 4

A solid weighs 50N in air, 4.2N in water, and 4.4N in liquid Y. Calculate the relative density of liquid Y.

##### Solution

Data:

Weight of solid in air, Wa = 5.0N

The weight of solid in water, Ww = 4.2N

Weight of solid in liquid Y, WL = 4.4N

Unknown:

Relative density of liquid, Y = ?

Formula:

We will use the formula R.D = UL / Uw

Where:

Upthrust of solid in liquid, UL = Wa – WL

The upthrust in water, Uw = Wa – Ww

R.D = UL / Uw = (Wa – WL) / (Wa – Ww)

Thus, by putting our data into the above equation, we will have:

R.D = (5.0 – 4.4) / (5.0 – 4.2) = 0.6 / 0.8 = 0.75

Therefore, the relative density of the block Y is 0.75

Note: Solving these problems by yourself, will you understand how to calculate relative density

## 5. Relative Density of Substances

### a. Relative Density of Water

The relative density of water serves as a reference point for comparing the densities of other substances. Since water is often used as the reference substance, its relative density is considered to be 1. Thus, when calculating the relative density of a material, the density of that material is divided by the density of water. Additionally, if the relative density of a substance is less than 1, it is less dense than water and will float in it.

Conversely, if the relative density is greater than 1, the substance is denser than water and will sink. Therefore, the relative density of water is an essential parameter in understanding the buoyancy and behaviour of various substances in aquatic environments.

### b. Relative Density of Liquid Propane

Liquid propane, also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is commonly used as a fuel source for various applications. To find the relative density of liquid propane, we need to compare its density to that of a reference substance, such as water.

Therefore, the density of liquid propane is approximately 0.507 g/cm³ at 25°C. Comparing this to the density of water, which is 1 g/cm³, we can calculate the relative density:

Relative Density of Liquid Propane = 0.507 g/cm³ / 1 g/cm³ Relative Density of Liquid Propane ≈ 0.507

The relative density of liquid propane is approximately 0.507, indicating that it is less dense than water.

### c. Relative Density of Coal

Coal, a fossil fuel formed from the remains of plants over millions of years, has a varying relative density depending on its composition and type. The relative density of coal is typically lower than that of water, which means that coal generally floats in water.

Additionally, the specific relative density of coal can vary significantly due to variations in its carbon content, mineral impurities, and moisture levels. The relative density of coal is often determined by conducting laboratory tests using specialized equipment.

Therefore, with the knowledge of the relative density of coal, scientists and engineers can assess its quality, combustion characteristics, and potential for various applications in energy production.

### d. Relative Density of Soil

The relative density of soil is an important parameter in geotechnical engineering that provides insights into its compaction and mechanical behaviour. It is a measure of how densely packed the soil particles are in relation to their maximum achievable density.

Furthermore, relative density is typically expressed as a percentage, ranging from 0% to 100%. A higher relative density indicates a more compacted soil with less void space. Thus, the relative density of soil depends on factors such as grain size, shape, compaction effort, and moisture content.

Geotechnical engineers determine the relative density of soil through laboratory tests, such as the Standard Proctor or Modified Proctor tests, which involve compacting soil samples and measuring their densities. Finally, the knowledge of the relative density of soil helps us in assessing its strength, stability, and suitability for construction and foundation design.

### e. Relative Density of Milk

Milk is a common liquid with a diverse composition depending on factors such as animal species, diet, and processing methods. The relative density of milk can vary due to variations in its fat content, protein content, and other components. Generally, the relative density of milk is slightly higher than that of water.

Therefore, the average relative density of milk is typically around 1.03 to 1.04, indicating that milk is slightly denser than water. This slight difference in density contributes to the behaviour of milk in various processes such as separation, homogenization, and cream rising to the top.

### f. Relative Density of Baby Oil

Baby oil is a popular oil-based product commonly used for skincare and massage. The relative density of baby oil refers to its density compared to that of water. Since baby oil is typically composed of mineral oil or a blend of oils, its relative density is less than 1.

Thus, this indicates that baby oil is less dense than water and will float on its surface. Additionally, the specific relative density of baby oil may vary depending on the specific formulation and brand.

### g. Relative Density of Honey

Honey is a sweet and viscous liquid produced by bees from flower nectar. The relative density of honey is higher than that of water, making it denser. The exact relative density of honey can vary depending on factors such as the floral source, moisture content, and processing methods.

On average, the relative density of honey ranges from 1.36 to 1.45. This means that honey is significantly denser than water. The higher relative density of honey contributes to its characteristic behaviour, such as its slow flow and tendency to sink in water.

### h. Relative Density of Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is a commonly used disinfectant and cleaning agent. The relative density of rubbing alcohol refers to its density compared to that of water. In addition to that, rubbing alcohol has a lower relative density than water, indicating that it is less dense.

Therefore, the relative density of rubbing alcohol is around 0.785 to 0.787. This means that rubbing alcohol is less dense than water and will float on its surface. The specific relative density may vary slightly depending on the concentration of isopropyl alcohol.

The knowledge of the relative density of rubbing alcohol is important for applications in healthcare, cleaning, and other industries.

## 6. Importance of Relative Density

Relative density is an essential parameter in various scientific and engineering applications. This is because it helps in identifying and characterizing different materials, determining their buoyancy, and understanding their behaviour when immersed in fluids.

Thus, by comparing the relative densities of substances, scientists and engineers can gain insights into their composition, purity, and potential interactions.

## 7. Specific Gravity vs Relative Density

The terms specific gravity and relative density are often used interchangeably, but they have slight differences in their definitions and usage.

Specific gravity is a dimensionless ratio that compares the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance, usually water. It is essentially another term for relative density. However, specific gravity is commonly used in the context of comparing liquids.

Whereas relative density can be applied to solids, liquids, and gases. The concept and calculation of both specific gravity and relative density remain the same, focusing on the comparison of densities between different substances.

## 8. Applications of Relative Density

The concept of relative density finds application in diverse fields. Let us look into some of its notable applications:

### a. Fluid Mechanics

In fluid mechanics, relative density is important for studying the behaviour of liquids and gases. It helps determine whether a substance will float or sink in a particular fluid. Additionally, relative density plays a role in designing and operating various fluid-based systems, such as pumps, tanks, and pipelines.

### b. Geology and Earth Sciences

Geologists rely on relative density to analyze soil composition, rock types, and mineral densities. Therefore, by understanding the relative densities of different materials in the Earth’s crust, geologists can make predictions about geological processes, identify potential natural resources, and assess the stability of landforms.

### c. Materials Science

In materials science, relative density is instrumental in characterizing and classifying materials. It helps determine the porosity, density, and strength of substances, enabling engineers to choose the right materials for specific applications. Additionally, the relative density also plays a role in manufacturing processes such as sintering and powder metallurgy.

### d. Environmental Studies

Environmental scientists utilize relative density to investigate pollution levels in air, water, and soil. Thus, by comparing the relative densities of pollutants and natural components, they can assess the impact of human activities on the environment and devise strategies for remediation.

### e. Relative Density in Construction

In construction and civil engineering, relative density is essential for evaluating soil compaction and stability. By measuring the relative density of soil, engineers can assess its load-bearing capacity, predict settlement patterns, and design foundations that can withstand various loads and environmental conditions.

### f. Biology and Biomedical Research

Biologists and biomedical researchers employ relative density to study cellular components, such as organelles, and their behaviour during centrifugation and density gradient separations. Therefore, relative density aids in the isolation and purification of specific cellular components for further analysis and experimentation.

## 9. Practical Examples of Relative Density

Let us consider a few practical examples that illustrate the concept of relative density:

• Example 1: For finding out the purity of gold jewellery. We simply compare the density to the density of pure gold.
• Example 2: Estimating the freshness of an egg by measuring its relative density in water.
• Example 3: Analyzing the composition of a mineral sample by calculating its relative density compared to known minerals.

## 10. Difference between Density and Relative Density

Density and relative density are both important concepts in understanding the physical properties of substances, but they have distinct meanings and applications.

Density: Density refers to the mass per unit volume of a substance. It is calculated by dividing the mass of an object or substance by its volume. The unit of density is typically grams per cubic centimetre (g/cm³) or kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m³).

Density is a fundamental property of matter and provides insights into how tightly packed the particles or molecules are within a given volume. It is often used to characterize and compare the mass and volume of different materials.

Relative Density: Relative density, also known as specific gravity, compares the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance, usually water. It is a dimensionless quantity and is calculated by dividing the density of the substance by the density of the reference substance.

Relative density does not have any units since it is a ratio of two densities. It provides a means to compare the density of a substance to that of another substance, often water. By using a reference substance, scientists and engineers can assess the buoyancy or float ability of a substance in a particular medium.

## 11. What is Used to Measure Relative Density

Several instruments and techniques are employed to measure the relative density of substances accurately. One commonly used device is a hydrometer, which is a glass tube with a weighted bulb at one end. The hydrometer floats in a liquid, and the depth to which it sinks indicates the relative density of the liquid.

Another method involves using a pycnometer, a specialized container with a known volume. The substance is placed in the pycnometer, and its mass is measured. By dividing the mass by the known volume, the density and relative density can be determined.

Additionally, modern analytical techniques such as densitometers and digital refractometers offer precise measurements of relative density. Therefore, these instruments utilize advanced technologies to provide accurate and reliable results, making them valuable tools in scientific research, industry, and quality control processes.

## 12. Challenges in Measuring Relative Density

While relative density is a valuable parameter, its accurate measurement can be challenging. Factors such as temperature, pressure, and impurities can affect the measured values. Therefore, you must carefully consider and control these variables to ensure reliable results.

## 13. Future Directions and Innovations

As scientific research advances, there is an ongoing exploration of new methods and technologies for measuring relative density. Innovations in nanotechnology, advanced materials, and instrumentation are expected to contribute to improved accuracy and precision in relative density measurements.

## 14. Conclusion

Relative density, or specific gravity, is a fundamental concept that finds applications across a wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines. The knowledge of relative density helps researchers and professionals gain insights into material characteristics, behaviour in fluids, and environmental impacts.

As advancements continue, the accurate measurement and application of relative density are poised to play an increasingly vital role in scientific endeavours.

1. What is the difference between density and relative density? Density refers to the mass per unit volume of a substance, while relative density compares the density of a substance to that of a reference substance, usually water.

2. Why is relative density important in fluid mechanics? Relative density helps determine whether a substance will float or sink in a particular fluid. It also aids in designing and operating fluid-based systems.

3. Can relative density be negative? No, relative density is a dimensionless quantity and is always positive or zero.

4. How is relative density used in environmental studies? Environmental scientists use relative density to assess pollution levels in air, water, and soil and to evaluate the impact of human activities on the environment.

5. Are there any limitations to measuring relative density? Measuring relative density accurately can be challenging due to factors like temperature, pressure, and impurities. Careful consideration and control of these variables are necessary for reliable results.

Finally, to be able to understand how to calculate relative density, you must pay attention to the question. Understanding the question will help you choose the right formula that is appropriate for your target answer.

You may also like to read:

Density of Water at 20 C (20 Degrees Celsius)

How to Calculate Relative Humidity Using a Formula

Surface tension definition

How to Calculate Cubic Expansivity with Examples

Linear Expansivity: Definition and Calculations

How to Calculate the Relative Density of a Liquid

General Gas Law in Physics

How to Calculate Specific Heat Capacity

Wikipedia

Structx

Referrence

Theconstructor

Geoscienceworld

Biorxiv

lifewithbees