Back To Course

Earth Science 101: Earth Science24 chapters | 168 lessons | 16 flashcard sets

Are you a student or a teacher?

Try Study.com, risk-free

As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 75,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.

Try it risk-freeWhat teachers are saying about Study.com

Already registered? Login here for access

Your next lesson will play in
10 seconds

Lesson Transcript

Instructor:
*John Simmons*

John has taught college science courses face-to-face and online since 1994 and has a doctorate in physiology.

Mineral density and specific gravity are similar properties used by mineralologists to identify minerals. This lesson describes a common practice used to determine density and specific gravity.

Have you ever been fooled by the question, 'Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks?' Well obviously, they have the same weight. Well, how about this question, 'Which weighs more, a liter of water or a liter of bricks?' The answer to this question is not so obvious. It requires an understanding of **density**, the amount of mass in a certain volume of material.

As brick has more mass per unit volume, it has a greater density. As the brick is more dense, it will sink in water. Mineralogists have often used a similar property called **specific gravity** to describe the density of a mineral. Specific gravity is simply a ratio of the mineral's mass to the mass of an equal volume of water. Different minerals have different densities and thus different specific gravities. This lesson will describe how density and specific gravity are used to differentiate between minerals.

Let's pretend you find an unknown specimen in your backyard. It's a heavy specimen, and you want to know what it is. As a novice mineralogist, you head to the laboratory to measure its density. Well, what to do first?

You need to determine the mass of the sample, so you weigh it on a scale and find its mass to be 150 grams. Now that you've identified the mass, you need to determine how much water the sample displaces. Fortunately, your sample is small enough to put in a beaker of water that's calibrated on the side. Before you place the sample in the water, you note the level at 100 milliliters, or 100 cubic centimeters (cc). After you place the sample in the water, you notice the level rises to 120 cc; therefore, 20 cc of water is displaced. This displaced volume of water is equal to the volume of the sample; therefore, your sample has a volume of 20 cc.

Now you're ready to calculate density. Simply divide the mass of the sample by the volume of the water displaced. Remember, the volume of the water displaced is equal to the volume of the sample.

So, density = mass / volume of water displaced. In our case, density = 150 grams / 20 cc of water. Density = 7.5 grams/cc.

Checking your mineral density handbook, you see that galena, the common form of lead, has a mineral density that ranges from 7.2 to 7.6. While the density does not provide definitive identification, you can use other properties to determine its identity definitely. For example, the sample has a metallic luster, which is characteristic of galena.

Now that we have determined the density of our sample, it is a piece of cake to determine its specific gravity. Recall that specific gravity is simply the ratio of the sample mass to the mass of an equal volume of water. The density of our sample is 7.5 grams/cc. Our sample has a specific gravity of 7.5. Well, how do we know this? Recall that 20 cc of water was displaced by the sample.

Now as we've learned in previous lessons, each cubic centimeter, or milliliter of water, has a density of 1 gram/cc; therefore, 20 cc of water has a mass of 20 grams. To determine the specific gravity of our sample, we simply divide the mass of the sample (that is, 150 grams) by the mass of the same volume of water, which would be 20 grams.

So, specific gravity = 150 grams of the sample / 20 grams of water. Specific gravity = 7.5.

Now, as the units are the same in the numerator and the denominator; that is, grams, they cancel each other out, and this gives us a value with no units.

As it turns out, most common rock-forming minerals have a specific gravity between two and three. For example, quartz has a specific gravity of 2.65. Our sample in this discussion, along with other metallic minerals, are more than twice as dense. Gold is more dense, with 24-karat gold coming in around 20. Platinum has a specific gravity of about 22. Now that's dense! Graphite, used to make pencil lead, and gypsum, used to make wallboard, are less dense minerals with a specific gravity just over two.

In summary, **density** and **specific gravity** are properties used to help identify minerals. **Density** is a measure of the mass of a certain volume of the sample. **Specific gravity** is a unitless measure, and it is the ratio of the mass of a substance to the mass of an equal volume of water. Most rock-forming minerals have a specific gravity between two and three; for example, quartz has a specific gravity of 2.65. Metallic minerals are far more dense; for example, galena, as we've talked about in our discussion, has a specific gravity of 7.5, and platinum has a specific gravity around 22.

After finishing this lesson, you should be able to:

- Define density and how it relates to weight
- Understand how specific gravity relates to density in minerals
- Learn how to calculate density and specific gravity through water displacement

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.

Create your account

Are you a student or a teacher?

Already a member? Log In

BackWhat teachers are saying about Study.com

Already registered? Login here for access

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

You are viewing lesson
Lesson
4 in chapter 6 of the course:

Back To Course

Earth Science 101: Earth Science24 chapters | 168 lessons | 16 flashcard sets

- Optical Properties of Minerals: Luster, Light Transmission, Color & Streak 6:33
- Crystal Shape of Minerals: Forms and Types 4:58
- Mineral Strength: Tenacity, Hardness, Cleavage & Fracture 7:02
- Mineral Density & Specific Gravity: Definition and Properties 6:10
- Non-silicate Minerals: Chemical Classifications & Examples 4:59
- Rocks and Minerals: Definitions and Differences 7:12
- Rock Cycle: Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic Rocks 8:08
- Types of Rocks: The Three Major Rock Groups 6:32
- Go to Minerals and Rocks

- Go to Glaciers

- Go to Oceans

- AFOQT Information Guide
- ACT Information Guide
- Computer Science 335: Mobile Forensics
- Electricity, Physics & Engineering Lesson Plans
- Teaching Economics Lesson Plans
- FTCE Middle Grades Math: Connecting Math Concepts
- Social Justice Goals in Social Work
- Developmental Abnormalities
- Overview of Human Growth & Development
- ACT Informational Resources
- AFOQT Prep Product Comparison
- ACT Prep Product Comparison
- CGAP Prep Product Comparison
- CPCE Prep Product Comparison
- CCXP Prep Product Comparison
- CNE Prep Product Comparison
- IAAP CAP Prep Product Comparison

- What Are the 5 Ws in Writing? - Uses & Examples
- Phenol: Preparation & Reactions
- What is a Color Wheel? - Definition & Types
- What Are Abbreviations? - Meaning, Types & Examples
- Zentangle Lesson Plan for High School
- West Side Story Discussion Questions
- Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey Activities
- Quiz & Worksheet - Solvay Process
- Quiz & Worksheet - Acetone Reactions
- Quiz & Worksheet - Themes in A Raisin in the Sun
- Quiz & Worksheet - Act & Rule Utilitarianism Comparison
- Analytical & Non-Euclidean Geometry Flashcards
- Flashcards - Measurement & Experimental Design
- 7th Grade Math Worksheets & Printables
- Classroom Management Resources for Teachers

- Introduction to Psychology: Tutoring Solution
- UExcel Earth Science: Study Guide & Test Prep
- CLEP Precalculus: Study Guide & Test Prep
- Physical Science: High School
- Introduction to Counseling: Certificate Program
- Properties of Matter Lesson Plans
- Chapter 1: Equations
- Quiz & Worksheet - What is Actinobacteria?
- Quiz & Worksheet - Characteristics & Function of Esoinphils
- Quiz & Worksheet - Synthesis Reaction Formula
- Quiz & Worksheet - Characteristics of Bacterial Plasmids

- What Is Foreign Direct Investment? - Definition, Advantages & Disadvantages
- Beowulf's Boasts: Examples & Analysis
- What is the Center for Change in Utah?
- 5th Grade Persuasive Writing Prompts
- What is an Alternative School?
- AP English Literature Test & Study Guide
- What Are the SAT Test Registration Deadlines?
- 6th Grade Writing Prompts
- Kingsport, TN Adult Education
- How to Pass the TOEFL Exam
- Persuasive Writing Prompts: High School
- Best Psychology Books for Beginners

- Tech and Engineering - Videos
- Tech and Engineering - Quizzes
- Tech and Engineering - Questions & Answers

Browse by subject