Density of Metals and Alloys

Understand the Density of Metals their importance for Material Selection, and Consult Density Charts

Density of Metals and Alloys

Understand the Density of Metals their importance for Material Selection, and Consult Density Charts

Metal density is a measure of how much mass a specific volume of a metal contains. It’s usually expressed in units like kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m³), grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm³), or pounds per cubic foot (lb/ft³). The density of a metal is determined by its atomic mass and how closely packed its atoms are within its structure. Densities vary widely across different metals and alloys. For instance, metals like lithium are very light with a low density, making them ideal for applications requiring lightweight materials, such as batteries for electric vehicles. On the other hand, metals like tungsten have a high density, which is useful in applications requiring heavy or high-mass materials, such as weights or radiation shielding. In this article, we explore the concept of metal density and provide the values for the most common metals used in the plant project business.

DENSITY OF METALS

WHAT IS THE DENSITY OF METALS?

The concept of density plays a pivotal role in the fields of materials science, physics, and engineering, serving as a fundamental property that characterizes the compactness of a material’s mass within a given volume.

Density, defined as mass per unit volume, is commonly expressed in units such as kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m³) or grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm³).

For metals and alloys, density is not just a mere numerical value but a key attribute that influences their selection, application, and performance across a wide range of industries. 

The density of metals and alloys is a direct reflection of their atomic structure and bonding. Metals consist of closely packed atoms with a sea of delocalized electrons facilitating their notable conductivity. The nature of metallic bonding, combined with the size and mass of the constituent atoms and the efficiency of their packing, dictates the metal’s density. Alloys, through the introduction of additional elements into the base metal, can exhibit densities that deviate from those of their pure metal counterparts, influenced by the type and proportion of alloying elements.

Density of Metals Atomic Structure
Density of Metals Atomic Structure

Metals, characterized by their shiny appearance, malleability, ductility, and excellent conductivity of heat and electricity, exhibit a wide range of densities. At one end of the spectrum, we have metals like lithium, with a density so low (approximately 0.534 g/cm³) that it floats on water. On the opposite end, osmium stands as the densest naturally occurring element, boasting a density of about 22.59 g/cm³. This diversity is mirrored in alloys, which are mixtures of metals and other elements designed to enhance certain properties such as strength, corrosion resistance, or ease of fabrication.

METALS DENSITY CALCULATION FORMULA

The formula for calculating density (ρ) is straightforward:

where “m” represents mass, and V denotes volume.

This simple equation, however, encapsulates a wealth of information about the material’s structure, composition, and potential applications.

The density of metals and alloys is a fundamental property that influences a wide array of material characteristics and applications. From the designer’s drafting table to the engineer’s workshop, density considerations shape decisions that affect the performance, durability, and environmental impact of metal and alloy-based products. As our understanding of material science deepens and our ability to engineer materials at the atomic level improves, the strategic manipulation of density will continue to open new horizons in material innovation and application.

RELEVANCE OF METAL DENSITY

Knowing the density of a metal provides valuable insights into its properties and potential applications. Understanding a metal’s density aids in making informed decisions regarding material selection, design considerations, and application feasibility, ensuring that the chosen metal aligns with the performance requirements of the end product.

Here are several aspects you can deduce from the density of a metal:

Material Selection

Density is a critical factor in material selection, especially for applications where weight is a crucial consideration, such as in the aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronics industries. The choice between using aluminum or titanium for aircraft components, for example, hinges on balancing the materials’ densities with their strength, cost, and performance characteristics (this is called “Strength-to-Ratio”, a concept widely used also in the automotive industry).

Design Considerations

Engineers must account for the density of materials when designing products and structures to ensure they can withstand operational stresses while maintaining efficiency and effectiveness. High-density materials may be preferred for their inherent weight and stability, while low-density materials are favored for lightweight construction.

Thermal and Electrical Performance

Although not directly related, density can influence a material’s thermal and electrical conductivities. Metals with high electron mobility, a characteristic partly dependent on their atomic arrangement and hence their density, typically exhibit excellent conductivity.

Corrosion Resistance

Though not directly related, density can be a starting point to consider corrosion resistance. Metals with higher densities often have compact atomic structures that may be less susceptible to corrosion in certain environments.

Wear and Durability

In certain applications, the density of a metal can hint at its wear resistance and durability under specific operating conditions, which is essential for parts subjected to friction and abrasion.

Material Identification

Density can help identify a metal or distinguish between two similar-looking materials, as each metal has a unique density.

Fabrication and Machinability

The density of a metal can influence its fabrication and machining processes. Heavier metals may require more energy to machine, weld, or form compared to lighter ones.

Cost and Availability

Denser metals, especially those that are rare or difficult to extract, may be more expensive. Knowing the density can help in preliminary cost estimation for material selection in projects.

Environmental and Economic Impact

The density of metals and alloys affects their sustainability and recyclability. High-density materials may require more energy to extract, refine, and process, but they might offer longer lifespans and better recyclability, impacting their overall environmental footprint.

Innovative Applications

Understanding and manipulating the density of alloys allows scientists and engineers to create materials with bespoke properties for cutting-edge applications, from superalloys capable of withstanding extreme temperatures in jet engines to lightweight alloys for electric vehicle batteries

METALS DENSITY CHART

KEY METALS

The table of densities for widely used metals in the array of products featured on Projectmaterials.com, including piping and structural steel, can be useful. To estimate the weight of an item made from a specific material, based on its weight in carbon steel, simply multiply the nominal carbon steel weight by the density ratio relative to steel (for example if you know that a 4″ Class 150 Threaded Flange in Carbon Steel weights 3 kilograms, the corresponding flange in Copper will weight 3 * 1.14 Kgs):

MetalDensity (g/cm³)Density vs. Steel
Steel7.851
Iron7.851.00
Aluminum2.730.35
Brass8.51.08
Chromium7.190.92
Copper8.941.14
Gold19.32.46
Lead11.31.44
Magnesium1.740.22
Mercury13.61.73
Nickel8.91.13
Platinum21.42.73
Silver10.51.34
Sodium0.970.12
Tin7.280.93
Zinc7.140.91

ALL KEY METALS, ALLOYS, AND ELEMENTS

The table shows the density of the most common metals, alloys, and elements in kgs/m3 and in Lbs/ft3:

Metal/Alloy/ElementDensity in kilograms per m3Density in Pounds per ft3
Actinium10070629
Admiralty Brass8525532
Aluminum2712169
Aluminum – melted2560 – 2640160 – 165
Aluminum alloy – 11002720170
Aluminum alloy – 60612720170
Aluminum alloy – 70502800175
Aluminum alloy – 71782830177
Aluminum alloy 2014, annealed2800175
Aluminum alloy 3003, rolled2730170
Aluminum alloy 3602640165
Aluminum bronze (3-10% Al)7700 – 8700481- 543
Aluminum foil2700 -2750169 – 172
Antifriction metal9130 -10600570-662
Antimonial lead (hard lead)10900680
Antimony6690418
Babbitt7272454
Barium3594224
Beryllium1840115
Beryllium copper8100 – 8250506 – 515
Bismuth9750609
Brass – casting8400 – 8700524- 543
Brass – rolled and drawn8430 – 8730526 – 545
Brass 60/408520532
Bronze – lead7700 – 8700480- 543
Bronze – phosphorous8780 – 8920548 – 557
Bronze (8-14% Sn)7400 – 8900462 – 556
Brushed metal7860491
Cadmium8640539
Cesium1873117
Calcium154096
Cast iron6800 – 7800425 – 487
Cerium6770423
Chemical Lead11340708
Chromium7190449
Cobalt8746546
Columbium8600537
Constantan8920557
Constantan8880554
Copper8940558
Cupronickel8908 – 8940556 – 558
Delta metal8600537
Duralumin2790174
Dysprosium8550534
Electrum8400 – 8900524 – 555
Erbium9070566
Eroded metal7860491
Europium5243327
Gadolinium7900493
Gallium5907369
Germanium5323332
Gold193201206
Hafnium13310831
Hastelloy C8940558
Holmium8800549
Incoloy8027501
Inconel8497530
Indium7310456
Iridium226501414
Iron7850490
Lanthanum6145384
Lead11340708
Light alloy based on Al2560 – 2800160 – 175
Light alloy based on Mg1760 – 1870110-117
Lithium53433
Lutetium9840614
Magnesium1738108
Magnesium alloy AZ31B1770110
Manganese7440464
Manganese Bronze8359522
Manganin8500531
Mercury13593849
Molybdenum10188636
Monel8360 – 8840522 – 552
Neodymium7007437
Neptunium202001261
Nichrome8400524
Nickel8908556
Nickel 208090505
Nickel 2008890555
Nickel silver8400 – 8900524 – 556
Nickeline8770547
Nimonic8100506
Niobium8570535
Osmium226101411
Palladium12160759
Phosphor bronze8900556
Platinum214001336
Plutonium198161237
Polonium9200574
Potassium89056
Praseodymium6770423
Promethium7260453
Protactinium15400961
Radium5000312
Red Brass8746546
Rhenium208001299
Rhodium12400774
Rubidium153096
Ruthenium12100755
Samarium7520469
Scandium2990187
Silver10490655
Sodium97161
Solder 50/50 Pb Sn8885555
Stainless Steel 304/L7930495
Stainless Steel 316/L8000499
Steel7850490
Strontium2640165
Tantalium164001024
Technetium11000687
Terbium8230514
Thallium11800737
Thorium11700730
Thulium9320582
Tin7280454
Titanium4500281
Tungsten196001224
Uranium189001180
Vanadium5494343
White metal7100443
Wrought Iron7750484
Yellow Brass8470529
Ytterbium6900431
Yttrium4470279
Zinc7135445
Zirconium6570410

RANKING BY DENSITY (HIGHEST TO LOWEST)

The table shows that Californium is the highest-density material, while Hydrogen is the lowest:

DensityNameSymbolRank
15.1 g/ccCaliforniumCf98
14.78 g/ccBerkeliumBk97
13.5 g/ccCuriumCm96
13.67 g/ccAmericiumAm95
19.84 g/ccPlutoniumPu94
20.2 g/ccNeptuniumNp93
18.95 g/ccUraniumU92
15.4 g/ccProtactiniumPa91
11.724 g/ccThoriumTh90
10.07 g/ccActiniumAc89
5.5 g/ccRadiumRa88
9.73 g/LRadonRn86
9.3 g/ccPoloniumPo84
9.75 g/ccBismuthBi83
11.35 g/ccLeadPb82
11.85 g/ccThalliumTl81
13.546 g/ccMercuryHg80
19.32 g/ccGoldAu79
21.45 g/ccPlatinumPt78
22.4 g/ccIridiumIr77
22.6 g/ccOsmiumOs76
21.04 g/ccRheniumRe75
19.35 g/ccTungstenW74
16.65 g/ccTantalumTa73
13.31 g/ccHafniumHf72
9.84 g/ccLutetiumLu71
6.9 g/ccYtterbiumYb70
9.32 g/ccThuliumTm69
9.07 g/ccErbiumEr68
8.8 g/ccHolmiumHo67
8.55 g/ccDysprosiumDy66
8.23 g/ccTerbiumTb65
7.895 g/ccGadoliniumGd64
5.24 g/ccEuropiumEu63
7.52 g/ccSamariumSm62
7.3 g/ccPromethiumPm61
7.01 g/ccNeodymiumNd60
6.77 g/ccPraseodymiumPr59
6.77 g/ccCeriumCe58
6.15 g/ccLanthanumLa57
3.59 g/ccBariumBa56
1.873 g/ccCesiumCs55
5.9 g/LXenonXe54
4.93 g/ccIodineI53
6.24 g/ccTelluriumTe52
6.684 g/ccAntimonySb51
7.31 g/ccTinSn50
7.31 g/ccIndiumIn49
8.65 g/ccCadmiumCd48
10.5 g/ccSilverAg47
12.02 g/ccPalladiumPd46
12.41 g/ccRhodiumRh45
12.37 g/ccRutheniumRu44
11.5 g/ccTechnetiumTc43
10.22 g/ccMolybdenumMo42
8.57 g/ccNiobiumNb41
6.51 g/ccZirconiumZr40
4.47 g/ccYttriumY39
2.54 g/ccStrontiumSr38
1.63 g/ccRubidiumRb37
3.75 g/LKryptonKr36
3.119 g/ccBromineBr35
4.79 g/ccSeleniumSe34
5.72 g/ccArsenicAs33
5.323 g/ccGermaniumGe32
5.907 g/ccGalliumGa31
7.13 g/ccZincZn30
8.96 g/ccCopperCu29
8.9 g/ccNickelNi28
8.9 g/ccCobaltCo27
7.874 g/ccIronFe26
7.43 g/ccManganeseMn25
7.19 g/ccChromiumCr24
6.11 g/ccVanadiumV23
4.54 g/ccTitaniumTi22
2.99 g/ccScandiumSc21
1.55 g/ccCalciumCa20
0.862 g/ccPotassiumK19
1.7824 g/LArgonAr18
3.214 g/LChlorineCl17
2.07 g/ccSulfurS16
1.82 g/ccPhosphorusP15
2.33 g/ccSiliconSi14
2.702 g/ccAluminumAl13
1.738 g/ccMagnesiumMg12
0.971 g/ccSodiumNa11
0.9 g/LNeonNe10
1.696 g/LFluorineF9
1.429 g/LOxygenO8
1.2506 g/LNitrogenN7
2.26 g/ccCarbonC6
2.34 g/ccBoronB5
1.848 g/ccBerylliumBe4
0.534 g/ccLithiumLi3
0.1785 g/LHeliumHe2
0.0899 g/LHydrogenH1
 

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About the Author

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Projectmaterials Team

Blog.projectmaterials.com is an online resource dedicated to providing in-depth information, analysis, and educational content related to the fields of project materials management, engineering, and procurement, particularly within the oil & gas, construction, shipbuilding, energy, and renewable energy sectors. It aims to serve professionals and enthusiasts in these industries by offering valuable insights into materials, equipment, and techniques used in various projects, focusing on the selection, application, and maintenance of these resources. Key features of the blog include: * Educational Articles: Comprehensive posts that cover topics ranging from the technical aspects of piping products (pipes, valves, fittings, flanges, gaskets, bolts, instrumentation) to structural steel and process equipment (including oil extraction systems, drilling rigs, wellheads, pumps, compressors, and separation systems). * Industry Insights: Updates on the latest trends, technologies, and regulatory changes affecting the industries covered. * Guides and How-Tos: Practical advice on selecting the right materials and equipment for specific applications, as well as tips on installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting. * Safety and Standards: Information on safety equipment for production sites, risk mitigation procedures, and an overview of relevant industry standards and regulatory frameworks. The website is designed to support the professional development of engineers, procurement specialists, project managers, and other stakeholders involved in project plant businesses, by disseminating critical know-how and best practices. Whether readers are new to the field or seasoned professionals, blog.projectmaterials.com offers resources to enhance their understanding and performance in managing project materials effectively.

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