Tables for
Volume C
Mathematical, physical and chemical tables
Edited by E. Prince

International Tables for Crystallography (2006). Vol. C, ch. 3.2, p. 158

Section Pycnometry

F. M. Richardsa Pycnometry

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This is one of the most demanding of the available techniques. A previously calibrated pycnometer containing the sample is weighed. A liquid of known density is then introduced, air bubbles are removed by reducing the pressure, and the filled bottle is reweighed. The volume of the sample and its mass may thus be determined. With care, a probable accuracy of 0.02% may be achieved (Johnston & Adams, 1912[link]). Contrary to many published statements, the accuracy of this technique is not dependent to any significant extent on the use of immersion media of high density.

Liquids with low surface tension will facilitate the removal of air bubbles. In some cases, it is advantageous to fill the bottle with the mother liquor from which the crystal grew. Powders or many small crystals may be used as well as large single specimens. There is no restriction on the density of the materials for which this technique is suitable.

A micropycnometer for use with samples of total volume as small as 0.01 ml has been described (Syromyatnikov, 1935[link]). An accuracy of better than 1% has been achieved with this instrument.


Johnston, J. & Adams, L. H. (1912). On the density of solid substances, with especial reference to permanent changes produced by high pressures. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 34, 563–584.
Syromyatnikov, F. V. (1935). The micropycnometric method for the determination of specific gravities of minerals. Am. Mineral. 20, 364–370.

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