What Instrument Is Used to Measure Mass?

With a balance, scientists can measure mass in chemistry, biology, and other fields.In order to measure mass, all scales take advantage of the acceleration of Earth's gravity.Acceleration produces a downward force that must be counteracted somehow.In what way the downward force is countered depends on the type of instrument used.

A laboratory balance is an essential measuring instrument because it is able to deal with such small measurement units.

Instruments for Measuring Mass

Balances and Scales

To determine the mass of most everyday objects, a balance is used.Balances compare an object with a known mass with the object at hand.Balance types include digital scientific balances and beam balances, such as triple beam balances.The standard unit of measure for mass in metric is either grams or kilograms.

To determine mass at home, most people use a digital or spring scale.A bathroom scale is like this.You can stand on the scale to get your weight.A digital scale calculates a person's mass by dividing their body weight by gravity.

Lab balances, also known as analytical balances, are used to measure small amounts of mass down to single milligrams.

In a scale, the downward force measured on one side is counteracted by an equal downward force on the opposite side.The opposite pan of a beam balance has enough mass to counterbalance the unknown mass, even if no force is applied.Gravity is compensated for at different locations on Earth by using this instrument.

The beam is the most common type of mass measurement instrument, but there are also load cell instruments to measure mass.High-end, highly accurate machines that measure mass are load cells.Typical strain gauge load cells have an accuracy of one part in 2,000.Even better accuracy can be achieved using frequency shift technology instruments using ceramic capacitive strain gauges, which can be made with an accuracy as high as one part in 30.000.However, this type of measuring can be broken.New scales feature technology that eliminates this issue by using spring shock dampers.

Weighing instruments use force restoration to measure force.Modern force rebalance transducers can produce accuracies of one part in 10 million with the latest technologies.Bench scales typically weigh up to 25 pounds, and their accuracy approaches one part in 1 million.The maximum load rating of commercial instruments is 13,000 lbs.Special devices, however, have capacities much higher than that.

Measurement Transducer

A transducer is used when mass cannot be determined with a balance, such as when measuring the mass of a liquid in a tank.A transducer measures the liquid's mass at rest.Transducers work by sending a signal to a processor, which then calculates the mass.Once the mass is calculated, it is displayed on an indicator.Using the measured mass of the liquid below the transducer, and subtracting the mass of the vapor, the mass of the floating roof, and the mass of the bottom sediment and water, we are able to arrive at the gross mass.

Vibrating Tube Mass Sensor

A microscopic measurement of physical properties poses a number of challenges.Vibrating tube mass sensors are one of the best methods for measuring fluids.To find an object's buoyant mass, the censor determines a fluid's density.If this has been established, the absolute mass of the object can then be calculated by measuring its buoyant mass in fluids of different densities.This is an ideal, affordable, and portable solution for measuring biomaterials such as seeds, cells, and embryos.


Do you want to lease scientific lab equipment?.If funding an equipment purchase is a challenge, please get in touch.


Mass or Weight?

Mass is often mistaken for weight, leading to incorrect choices of instruments to measure mass.Weight and mass are used interchangeably because they are proportional.Although mass represents the amount of matter within an object, weight reflects the force exerted by gravity on the object.Mass does not always equal weight.There is always the same amount of matter in an object, regardless of where it is located.Mass can be measured by counting the number of protons, neutrons, or electrons within an object.The amount of stuff in an object.

A weight, on the other hand, refers to the interaction between objects with mass and the gravity of the Earth.When an object interacts with Earth, the force is known as its weight.You can also express weight in pounds or kilograms, but Newtons are the unit of measure.

Steps to Measuring Mass

Step 1: Prepare the Balance for Use

If you already know how to use the balance, make sure it is clean and free of debris.Do not place the sample directly on the balance, and ensure the balance is on a level surface.You should use a weighted boat, weighing sheet, or something else such as a graduated cylinder to hold your sample because certain chemicals in a laboratory may damage the surface of the weighing pan.

Make sure your sample won't chemically react with the container before choosing the container for your sample.The accuracy of the mass measurement will be affected if your balance has doors that can be closed prior to mass measurement.Check for vibrations and drafts if the room has no doors.

Step 2: Tare the Scale

A sample placed inside a container has the combined mass of the container and the sample.To get an accurate measurement of just your sample, you want to remove the mass of the container.You can measure extra metric units when you have the mass of the container.When you use the tare function on your scale, you eliminate the mass of your container from your calculations.

You may need to reset some instruments manually to zero.Most electronic devices tare automatically, but need to be calibrated periodically to maintain accuracy.

Step 3: Place Container on the Scale

Once again, press the tare button until the balance reading is 0.Now your container weight has been removed.

Step 4: Add the Sample to the Container

Samples can be added to the container.Its mass is represented by the value provided.

You can also measure the mass of your container, then measure the mass of the container with the sample, and subtract the container's mass from the sample's mass.When you weigh a container and sample together, if the container weighs 5 grams, and the sample weighs 15 grams, you can determine the sample weighs 10 grams.Most scales come with a "tare" function that does this calculation for you.

Sources of Error When Measuring Mass

The container's mass can still lead to an inaccurate measurement even after adjusting for it.Instruments used to measure mass are prone to error.Errors can be caused by:


Learn more about our equipment leasing program and how you can get the lab balance you need at an affordable price.