Chemistry Density Lab
All substances have characteristic properties that we can use to identify them. A characteristic
property is independent of the sample size, and depends only on the nature of the substance. The
two basic types of properties associated with matter are chemical properties and physical
properties. A useful tool in the identification of unknown substances is the comparison of
characteristic properties of the unknown substance with known substances. By comparing a few
properties of an unknown substance to properties of a known substance we can narrow down the
identity of the unknown. The more of these properties we know, the better we can determine the
identity the substance.
Density is a physical property that is easy to calculate by measuring two properties: mass and
volume. All matter takes up space and has mass. Density represents the ratio between the mass
of a sample and its volume. Density is independent of the size of the sample however it does
depend on the temperature of the sample. This means that the density is constant for a substance
as long as the temperature is the same. Substances expand and contract with changes in
temperature, which in turn affects the space occupied, or volume.
The calculate measurement of density is the one of the easiest of laboratory procedures. In this
lab, you will determine the density of irregularly shaped solid samples by measuring the mass
and volume of a sample of the substance. A balance will be used to determine the mass of the
sample. The volume of the irregularly shaped object will be determined by the measuring the
displacement of water. Once the mass and volume have been measured, density will be
calculated using the following relationship:
Density = !”## %& ‘(“!#
)*+,!- %& !.
In this lab you will be measuring the volume of an irregularly shaped object with a known
mass. From the experimental data, density will be calculated.
Prepare your notebook. When the lab is complete your lab notebook should include the
1. Include Density Lab in the Table of Contents
2. Write the title of the lab on the top of the page.
3. Date/number the page (if you work on it over a few days, date each time you are
working). Sign in your lab notebook each time you stop working.
4. Record the Purpose of Experiment in your own words. Remember the purpose is the
overall question that will be answered by collecting the data and doing any
5. Indicate PPE (personal protection equipment) required while performing the lab:
goggles, closed-toed shoes
6. Complete the pre-lab questions below. Record ANSWERS ONLY in your notebook.
7. Copy Table 1 found in the Procedure in your notebook. Leave enough space to
record your data.
8. Complete the Post-lab questions. Record ANSWERS ONLY in your notebook.
Q1: What two physical properties will you measure in order to calculate the density?
Q2: What are the common units for density?
Q3: A solid piece of metal weighing 14.8 g is added to 25.0 mL of water in a graduated
cylinder. The water level rises to 26.9 mL. Calculate the density of the metal. Show your
Remember to make all measurements to the correct precision
Graduated cylinder appropriate for your sample size
The purpose of this experiment is to investigate different ways of calculating density and to
continue to practice making measurements to the correct precision.
A. Measuring Volume of an Irregularly shaped object (a bolt)
1. Obtain the pre-mass bolt from your lab kit.
2. Record the description (color, length) of the bolt on the data table.
3. Record the mass of the solid, found on the L02 bag, in grams, on the data table.
4. Choose the smallest graduated cylinder that is appropriate for your bolt’s size.
Which size? The sample must fit into the cylinder, and be completely submerged in
water, without going above the markings.
5. Fill the empty graduated cylinder about half-full with water. Measure the starting
volume of water using the correct precision. Record the volume as the initial
volume in the data table.
6. Carefully add the bolt to the cylinder. Measure the volume of the water after the
bolt is added using the correct precision. Record the volume as the final volume in
the data table.
7. Collect two more data sets from other students in the class. The new sample should
be the same metal, however it may not have the same mass and volume as your trial.
8. Dry the wet bolt with a paper towel and return to kit.
9. You may share your data with your group. If you are not in a group, post your data
in the Density Lab discussion board so you can exchange data with other students.
Description of solid sample 1:
Description of solid sample 2:
from student 2
Description of solid sample 3:
from student 3
Mass of bolt 1: Mass of bolt 2: Mass of bolt 3:
Initial volume, V1 Initial volume, V1 Initial volume, V1
Final volume, V2 Final volume, V2 Final volume, V2
Volume displaced, Vd Volume displaced, Vd Volume displaced, Vd
Volume of solid, Vs Volume of solid, Vs Volume of solid, Vs
Calculated density Calculated density Calculated density
1. Calculate the volume of the water displaced, Vd, by subtracting the initial volume, V1,
from the final volume, V2.
2. The volume of the water displaced, Vd, is equal to the volume of the solid, Vs.
3. Calculate the density of the solid sample and record the value in the data table.
𝒎𝒂𝒔𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒅
𝒗𝒐𝒍𝒖𝒎𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒅
4. Calculate the average density
𝑨𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒂𝒈𝒆 𝒅𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒊𝒕𝒚 =
(𝒅𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒊𝒕𝒚𝟏 + 𝒅𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒊𝒕𝒚𝟐 + 𝒅𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒊𝒕𝒚𝟑)
Answer the following questions in your lab notebook
1. Explain why the solid sample sinks in water.
2. Suppose you were asked with a partner to determine the density of rubber. To do
this, you cut a rubber stopper into two pieces, and each partner determined the
density of their piece. Which of the following would be the best way to report your
answer? Explain your choice. (1) Report your experimentally determined density
as the density of the stopper, (2) Add the density you determined to the density
your partner determined and report the total density, or (3) average both values of
the density and report the average of the two densities.
3. An important part of the experimental process is error analysis. We need to identify
errors in our measurements to determine how they affect our conclusions. The
following are errors that were made while performing a density experiment.
a. You used the displacement of water to determine the volume of a solid
sample. When the final volume was measured, the water did not completely
cover the solid, so some of the solid was sticking out of the water. (1) Would
the volume recorded for the solid be too high or too low? (2) Would the
error cause your density calculated for the solid to be higher or lower than
the actual density? Explain.
b. As you dropped the solid into the water to measure its volume, water
splashed out of the container. (1) Would the volume recorded of the solid be
too high or too low? (2) Would the error cause the density calculated for the
solid to be higher or lower than the actual density? Explain.
4. What is the volume, in liters, of 57g of alcohol, if the density is 0.780 g/mL?
5. Given the densities of the following liquids and solids, draw a test tube showing the
position of each substance if you were to layer them in the test tube.
Substance Density (g/mL)
vegetable oil 0.93
silver ring 10.5
rubbing alcohol 0.78
Works cited: Mullins, N.J., & Milczanowski, S.E. (2020). Lab Manual for Introductory Chemistry
CHM1025C/CHM1032C. Jacksonville: FSCJ Copy Center.