- specific gravity
—specific-gravity, adj.the ratio of the density of any substance to the density of some other substance taken as standard, water being the standard for liquids and solids, and hydrogen or air being the standard for gases. Also called relative density.[1660-70]
* * *Ratio of the density of a substance to that of a standard substance.For solids and liquids, the standard substance is usually water at 39.2°F (4.0°C), which has a density of 1.00 kg/liter. Gases are usually compared to dry air, which has a density of 1.29 g/liter at 32°F (0°C) and 1 atmosphere pressure. Because it is a ratio of two quantities that have the same dimensions (mass per unit volume), specific gravity has no dimension. For example, the specific gravity of liquid mercury is 13.6, because its actual density is 13.6 kg/liter, 13.6 times that of water.
* * *▪ physicsalso called relative densityratio of the density of a substance to that of a standard substance. The usual standard of comparison for solids and liquids is water at 4° C (39.2° F), which has a density of 1.000 kg per litre (62.4 pounds per cubic foot). Gases are commonly compared to dry air, which has a density of 1.29 g per litre under so-called standard conditions (0° C and 1 atmosphere pressure). For example, the liquid mercury has a density of 13.6 kg per litre; therefore, its specific gravity is 13.6. The gas carbon dioxide, which has a density of 1.976 g per litre under standard conditions, has a specific gravity of 1.53. Because it is the ratio of two quantities that have the same dimensions (mass per unit volume), specific gravity has no dimension.Buoyancy is intimately related to specific gravity. If a substance has specific gravity less than that of a fluid, it will float on that fluid: helium-filled balloons will rise in air, oil will form a slick on water, and lead will float on mercury. The specific gravity of a substance is characteristic; it is the same for different samples of a substance (if pure, the same in composition, and free from cavities or inclusions) and is used to help identify unknown substances. Specific gravity has many other applications: gemologists use it to distinguish similar gems; chemists, to check on the progress of reactions and the concentration of solutions; and auto mechanics, to test battery fluid and antifreeze.Specific gravity is the basis of methods used throughout history to concentrate ores. Panning, jigging, shaking, spiral separation, and heavy-medium separation are among the ore-dressing methods that depend on differences in specific gravity to obtain concentrated ore. Specific gravity is highest in rocks rich in iron, magnesia, and the heavy metals and lowest in those rich in alkalies, silica, and water.The ease with which specific gravity can be precisely determined leads to its widespread use in chemical science and technology; for example, determination of the specific gravity is part of the routine characterization of a new liquid compound. The specific gravity of most organic compounds containing only carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen is less than one.Among the devices used to measure specific gravity are the Jolly balance, the Westphal balance, the pycnometer, and the hydrometer.
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