Experiment 1

Experiment 1

 Measurement and Density


The objective is to (1) become familiar with measurement devices commonly used in scientific work, and (2) measure the mass densities of a few selected objects.


 A dial caliper, a micrometer, a mass balance, a few regularly shaped solids, and a scientific calculator


           Measuring instruments have limited precisions that must be considered during use.  These limited precisions will result in the transmission and compounding of errors. Observing the use of appropriate number of significant figures is important in obtaining a result that can be trusted to a certain degree.   The student should have an understanding of significant figures prior to this experiment.  Click on  Significant Figures  for a review.

 Mass density is defined as the mass per unit volume.  gm/cm3 is, therefore, a unit of mass density.  The mass density of an object may be found by dividing its mass by its volume.

Formulas used in the calculation of volume (V) are:

Rectangular block or cube:  V = length x width x height  = lwh.

                                         Sphere V = (4/3) π R3.

                           Cylinder:  V = π R2l.

Mass densities of a few substances are given below:

Table 1

Aluminum     2.7 gm/cm3 Ice        0.9 gm/cm3  Brass      8.6 gm/cm3
Concrete      2.3 gm/cm3 Iron      7.8 gm/cm Lead     11.3 gm/cm3
Copper         8.9 gm/cm3 Steel     7.8 gm/cm3 Gold     19.3 gm/cm3


  1. Record the sensitivity and zero reading of each measuring device on the data sheet (See Table 2 under Data).
  2. Obtain the necessary measurements to calculate the volume of each object with the specified measuring device. 
  3. Record the readings to the correct number of significant figures in Tables 3 and 4.  Always estimate between smallest graduations.
  4. Determine the masses by weighing them on the mass scale (triple-beam balance) and record your measurements in Tables 3 and 4.
  5. Calculate the average values to be used in determining the volume and mass.
  6. Calculate the volume and mass density for each measured object and display these values in a clearly labeled table of results.
  7. Calculate a percent error on the density of each item.


Given: The accepted values for the densities of the metals used. (See Table 1).


Table 2




Dial Caliper




Mass Scale


I) Aluminum rectangular block (Use a Dial caliper):

Table 3

Trial Length (cm) Width (cm) Thickness (cm) Mass (gram)

II.              II) Steel sphere (use a micrometer):

Table 4

Trial Diameter (cm) Mass (gram)


    Provide the necessary calculations.

Comparison of the results: 

     Provide the percent error formula used as well as the calculation of the percent errors.


     State your conclusions of the experiment.


Last Updated: Dec. 02, 2014