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Tools for Measurement Lab

Introduction

During laboratory investigations, you are often required to make measurements of length, mass, and volume. You need to know the proper pieces of equipment to select and the appropriate procedures and units to use.

Length Measurement

Typically a metric ruler is used to determine the length of an object. To measure length, use either centimeter (cm), millimeters (mm), or meters (m). With larger distances, you will calculate using kilometers (km). You should know how to convert millimeters to centimeters and vice versa.

The metric ruler we are working with is calibrated – or scaled – in centimeters. The lines indicated by numbers 1, 2, 3 and so on each represent a distance of 1 centimeter. The smaller divisions each equal 1 millimeter (10 mm = 1 cm).

Volume Measurement

A graduated cylinder is often used to measure a liquid’s volumes, or the space it occupies. Liters and milliliters are typically used to indicate volume in the metric system. Graduated cylinders are calibrated in milliliters (mL).

Water and many other fluids form a meniscus (curving surface) when placed in the narrow tube of a graduated cylinder. To correctly read the volume of the liquid, place the cylinder on a flat surface. Then read from the bottom of the curved meniscus at eye level. The graduated cylinder at the left is divided into increments of 2 mL, so the volume in it is 12 mL. The graduated cylinder on the right is divided into increments of 1 mL, so the volume in it is 16 mL.

Mass Measurement

In the science laboratory, a balance is used to calculate the mass (amount an object has within it) of an object. An electronic balance measures mass automatically. To use an electronic balance, first turn it on and wait until it shows a zero mass. You may have to push the “On/Zero” button to reset to…