Chemistry » Composition of Substances and Solutions » Other Units for Solution Concentrations

Volume and Mass-Volume Percentage

Volume Percentage

Liquid volumes over a wide range of magnitudes are conveniently measured using common and relatively inexpensive laboratory equipment. The concentration of a solution formed by dissolving a liquid solute in a liquid solvent is therefore often expressed as a volume percentage, %vol or (v/v)%:

\(\text{volume percentage} = \cfrac{\text{volume solute}}{\text{volume solution}} × 100\%\)

Calculations Using Volume Percentage

Rubbing alcohol (isopropanol) is usually sold as a 70%vol aqueous solution. If the density of isopropyl alcohol is 0.785 g/mL, how many grams of isopropyl alcohol are present in a 355 mL bottle of rubbing alcohol?


Per the definition of volume percentage, the isopropanol volume is 70% of the total solution volume. Multiplying the isopropanol volume by its density yields the requested mass:

\(\left ( 355\text{ mL solution} \right ) \left ( \cfrac{70\text{ mL isopropyl alcohol}}{100\text{ mL solution}} \right ) \left ( \cfrac{0.785\text{ g isopropyl alcohol}}{1\text{ mL isopropyl alcohol}} \right ) \)

\(= 195\text{ g isopropyl alcohol}\)

Mass-Volume Percentage

“Mixed” percentage units, derived from the mass of solute and the volume of solution, are popular for certain biochemical and medical applications. A mass-volume percent is a ratio of a solute’s mass to the solution’s volume expressed as a percentage. The specific units used for solute mass and solution volume may vary, depending on the solution.

For example, physiological saline solution, used to prepare intravenous fluids, has a concentration of 0.9% mass/volume (m/v), indicating that the composition is 0.9 g of solute per 100 mL of solution. The concentration of glucose in blood (commonly referred to as “blood sugar”) is also typically expressed in terms of a mass-volume ratio. Though not expressed explicitly as a percentage, its concentration is usually given in milligrams of glucose per deciliter (100 mL) of blood (see image below).


“Mixed” mass-volume units are commonly encountered in medical settings. (a) The NaCl concentration of physiological saline is 0.9% (m/v). (b) This device measures glucose levels in a sample of blood. The normal range for glucose concentration in blood (fasting) is around 70–100 mg/dL. Image credit a: modification of work by “The National Guard”/Flickr; credit b: modification of work by Biswarup Ganguly

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