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Volume Conversions

Key Concepts

  • The unit of volume derived from SI units is the cubic meter, m3.

  • Chemists in a laboratory usually deal with much smaller volumes than cubic meters and the metric but non-SI units of liter or litre (L) and milliliter or millilitre (mL or ml) are in common use.

  • In 1964 the litre was redefined as being equal to exactly 1 cubic decimetre:
    1L = 1dm3

    So 1 milliltre = 1 cubic centimetre
    1mL = 1cm3 (= 1cc)

  • Non-metric units of volume can still be found in use around the world, eg, gallons of gas in the USA and a pint of beer in the UK.

Volume Conversions

Metric Unit Conversions

factors 1012 109 106 103 102 101 10-1 10-2 10-3 10-6 10-9 10-12 10-15 10-18
prefix tera giga mega kilo hecto deca deci centi milli micro nano pico femto atto
symbol T G M k h da d c m µ n p f a

1 litre (1L) = 103 millilitres (1000mL) 1 millilitre (1mL) = 1 ÷ 103 litres = 0.001L
1 megalitre (1ML) = 106 litres (1,000,000L) 1 litre (1L) = 1 ÷ 106 megalitres = 10-6ML
1 microlitre (1µL) = 10-6 litres 1 litre (1L) = 1 ÷ 10-6 microlitres = 106µL

Examples of Volume Conversions Using Metric Units

  1. Convert 1 litre to decilitres

    From the table above we see that deci = 10-1 = 0.1
    1dL = 0.1L
    1L = 1 ÷ 0.1 dL = 10dL

  2. Convert 2.5L to millilitres

    1L = 1,000 mL
    2.5 L = 2.5 x 1,000mL = 2,500 mL

  3. Convert 5 millilitres to litres

    From the table above we see that milli = 10-3
    5mL = 5 x 10-3L = 0.005L

  4. Convert 0.250L to microlitres

    1µL = 10-6L
    1L = 1 ÷ 10-6 µL = 106 µL
    0.250L = 0.250 x 106 µL = 2.50 x 105 µL = 250,000 µL

  5. Convert 25 µL to millitres

    1 µL = 10-6L
    25 µL = 25 x 10-6L = 2.5 x 10-5L

    1L = 1,000 mL
    2.5 x 10-5L = 2.5 x 10-5 x 1,000 L = 2.5 x 10-2mL = 0.025mL

Non-metric Units of Volume

  • 1 US liquid gallon = 231 cubic inches = 3.785411784 litres

  • 1 US fluid ounce = 1/128 US gallon = 0.0295735295625L = 29.5735295625mL

  • 1 US pint = 1/8 US gallon = 16 US fluid ounces = 473.1764729984mL

  • 1 US quart = 1/4 US gallon = 32 US fluid ounces = 946.3529459968mL

Examples of Conversion Between Empirical Units and SI Units of Mass

  1. Convert 10 US gallons to millilitres

    1 gallon = 3.7854L
    1L = 1,000mL
    1 gallon = 1,000 x 3.7854 mL = 3,785.4mL
    10 gallons = 10 x 3,785.4mL = 37,854mL

  2. Convert 2.5 US fluid ounces to millilitres

    1 fl oz = 29.5735 mL
    2.5 fl oz = 2.5 x 29.5735 mL = 73.9338 mL

  3. Convert 200 litres to US gallons

    1 gallon = 3.7854L
    1L = 1 ÷ 3.7854 gallon = 0.2642 gallon
    so 200L = 200 x 0.2642 gallon = 52.8346 gallon

  4. Convert 150 millilitres to US fluid ounces

    1 fl oz = 29.57353 mL
    1mL = 1 ÷ 29.57353 = 0.03381 fl oz
    So 150mL = 150 x 0.03381 fl oz = 5.072 fl oz

  5. Convert 500 millilitres to US quarts.

    1 quart = 946.353 mL
    1mL = 1 ÷ 946.353 quart = 0.00106 quart

    So 500mL = 500 x 0.00106 quart = 0.528 quart


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