The Basics of Mass Measurement

mass measurement

In physics, the concept of mass is sometimes confused with weight. Both measure the amount of matter contained in an object or particle. However, weight changes depending on gravity while mass remains the same in any environment.

When determining an object’s mass cannot be done on a balance, transducers are used to measure mass properties. They send a signal to a processor that makes mass calculations.


Many people are confused about the difference between mass and weight. While both are proportional to each other, they are different measurements of different physical properties. Weight is a measure of the force exerted by gravity on something, while mass is a measurement of the amount of matter an object contains. An object’s weight changes if it is moved to another planet, but its mass remains the same.

The most common method for measuring mass is through a balance. The unknown mass of an object is compared with a known value of mass to obtain its measure. A balance works in space and places with no gravity as well, since changes in gravitational acceleration affect both masses equally on the balance. Mass is also measured in a specialized way called inertial mass, which is based on an object’s resistance to acceleration. It is important to teach kids the difference between these two measurements so they are better prepared for more advanced science and mathematics later in school.


Students should be familiar with the basic units used in measurement such as the meter (length), gram (mass), and liter (volume). They should also be aware that these base units are related to each other.

For example, the metric unit of volume is equal to one cubic centimeter. The meter is the base unit of length, and it can be divided into smaller units like millimeters or micrometers. These smaller units are related to the meter by a ratio called a decimal.

The kilogram is the only SI base unit that is defined based on a physical artifact, though it’s proposed to redefine the kilogram in terms of a fixed value for the Planck constant, a fundamental quantity of nature. Other common metric units include the tonne (or metric ton) and the electronvolt, which is useful in measuring atomic properties. Units can be multiplied together or divided to generate new units for quantities such as velocity, which is calculated by dividing a distance quantity by a time quantity.


The most common way to measure mass is to use a balance. The unknown object is placed on the fulcrum of the balance and then a standard object (with known mass) is added to counterbalance it at one end. The mass of the unknown object is then calculated by comparing it to the standard mass.

Another method is to find the density of the object. Density is an indication of how tightly packed together the matter is in an object. It is commonly measured in kilograms per cubic meter, i.e. kg/m3, or in grams per cubic centimeter, i.e. g/cm3 for smaller objects.

The most important thing to remember when measuring mass is that it measures the amount of matter in an object and does not depend on gravity. This is why an object’s weight may change when it is moved to another planet, but the object will still have the same mass. It is also why a bomb has such a large gravitational pull while a pineapple does not.


Generally, the most common tool to measure mass is a balance. Researchers and ordinary people use this device all the time to determine the weight of things like paperclips and bottles of water. The difference is that the tool only works in a no-gravity environment and if you move the object to a different planet, the weight will change.

Mass spectrometers are used to obtain very high resolution mass measurements. This is measured as the ability of the instrument to distinguish closely spaced peaks in the mass spectrum (see the figure below). The higher the resolution, the better.

Accurate mass measurements are essential in many scientific fields, such as identifying unknown impurities for biomolecules and determining the elemental formula of complex molecules from their peptide fragments produced during digestion. The accuracy of the measurement is determined by how close it gets to the calculated exact mass of an ion. When the error is very small, a unique empirical formula can be unambiguously assigned to the ion.

The Importance of a Accurate Weighing Process

weighing process

A weighing process is essential to verify the load weights for inbound ingredients and outgoing products. This critical step ensures the dispatch workflow process is accurate and efficient.

Performing the weighing correctly can prevent a number of errors, which can have monetary, logistic and security consequences. Sources of error can be due to the environment, the balance, or the weighing technique.

Identify the Sample

Incorrect portioning of ingredients during manufacturing processes results in a quality of products that doesn’t meet production standards and can damage company reputation and profits. To avoid these issues, companies need to make sure that their weighing systems deliver consistent and accurate results.

To do this, they should be able to accurately track and store data based on pre-programmed user-defined criteria. This can be accomplished through routine checkweighing and other automated procedures.

A few factors can complicate the weighing process. For example, if a sample is transferred incorrectly or if the barcode is damaged on a bottle, the results can be skewed. These problems can be avoided with the right technology. For example, using an analytical balance with a barcode reader like the LeDoser-12 can help you avoid these errors by tracking your samples in real time. This also helps you prevent data loss and reduce the amount of manual processing required. Also, avoiding physical changes in the sample can improve accuracy.

Place the Sample on the Balance

Before any readings are taken, the balance should be “exercised” by placing a load equal to its maximum capacity and arresting it (or removing the weight from electronic balances). This helps improve the repeatability of the measurements.

The location of the balance should be selected carefully to avoid exposure to vibrations, humidity, temperature fluctuations and drafts as these can distort weighing results. Ideally, the balance should be placed on a stable platform in an area that is free from other laboratory equipment and a low-traffic zone.

Consider the Temperature – Both the sample, the glassware or plasticware and the hands that are touching the scale can affect the accuracy of the measurements if they’re not at the correct temperatures. This is especially important for volatile or hygroscopic samples, which can absorb moisture and cause the weight to change.

For chemically sensitive weighing applications, special glazed paper is available that can be used to hold the sample and protect it from contamination during measurement. The weighed container can then be tared on the paper before being removed from the pan to ensure that the reading is accurate.

Take the Readings

In order to obtain accurate weight results it is important to record the readings during the weighing process. A good practice is to tare the balance with a standard object such as a beaker prior to taking every reading (the mass of the beaker plus the zero displayed should equal zero). Also, make sure you are using a clean glass or stainless steel pan and that the balance is not overheated. It is also a good idea to take calibration and/or test weights on a routine basis to ensure accuracy. This will help eliminate errors caused by environmental conditions such as air temperature, humidity and vibrations that affect the weighing results.

Record the Readings

Weighing is a non-contact process that measures material quantity without correction factors for bulk density. It’s a popular method of quantifying packaged products in the food industry.

When a load is placed on the scale pan, it causes the load cells to sense a change in electrical signal proportional to the weight. This signal is summed in a junction box and sent via one cable to a weight controller that converts the summed signals into a weight reading.

Recording weight measurements accurately is crucial to the weighing process. This ensures that the reading is correct & eliminates errors due to transcription. It also makes it easier to compare results from different weighing sessions to identify any inconsistencies.

Michelli Weighing & Measurement incorporates data tracking capabilities into many of our weighing systems to automatically record information for our customers. This helps them monitor operations & improve productivity. For example, if an employee receives a high number of over/under weight rejections during 1 shift, management can review the records to identify the source of the problem.