Mixing 101: The Importance of Specific Gravity

What is Specific Gravity?

And why do we ask for it…

Next to viscosity, specific gravity is a separate but equally important factor in optimizing a mixer. Without factoring this measurement into your mixer design, your results would not reach product specification.

What is Specific Gravity?

The term “Specific Gravity” (SG) is used to define the weight or density of a liquid as compared to the density of an equal volume of water at a specified temperature. The temperature used for measurement is usually 39.2oF (4oC), because this temperature allows water to assume its maximum density.

In the metric system, water has a density of 1 gram/ml, so density and SG are numerically equal. If the liquid you are comparing has an SG lower than 1 gram/ml, it will float on water. If it has an SG higher than 1 gram/ml, it will sink.

In the imperial system water has a density of 8.345 lbs/gallon; however the SG value of a product is exactly the same, since it’s based on a ratio.

Why Specific Gravity is Important

When it comes to configuring a mixer, knowing the specific gravity of the fluids being blended is important because it will influence the torque & horsepower that is required to properly mix your fluid.

In applications with higher specific gravity, more torque would be required to produce the desired result. If specific gravity was not taken into consideration, and a mixer not optimized accordingly, results would be unpredictable, and motor damage and/or failure would likely occur.

Calculating Specific Gravity

The specific gravity of a liquid can be expressed as:

Calculating Specific Gravity

Two commonly used methods for determining the specific gravity of a liquid are:

Hydrometer - Measuring Specific Gravity

  1. Hydrometer: Usually a cylindrical glass stem with a scale inside, and a bulb at one end weighted with mercury or lead. When lowered into a container of liquid, the calibrated glass stem will float freely in the fluid. Using the point where the fluid surface touches the stem, a reading of the specific gravity can be taken directly from the scale.
  2. Specific-Gravity Bottle: A flask made to hold a known volume of liquid at a specified temperature (usually 20°C). The bottle is weighed, filled with the liquid whose specific gravity is to be found, and weighed again. The difference in weights is divided by the weight of an equal volume of water to give the specific gravity of the liquid.
Common fluids and their specific gravity:
Common fluids and their specific gravity

Combining Liquids with Different Specific Gravity

When combining liquids of different densities, the result is the formation of a new liquid with its own specific gravity. Variables to take into account are the SG measurement of each liquid, and the ratio at which they are blended in a mixture.

Let’s consider an Electrolyte mixture:

Electrolyte Mixture

If liquid A (Acid) = SG 1.835, liquid B (Water) = SG 1.000, and you mix the liquids at a ratio of 5.625:10 in a tank, the specific gravity of the blended fluid would be calculated as follows:

Specific Gravity Equation


Based on this formula, the newly formed Electrolyte fluid would have a specific gravity of 1.270

Mixing Extremes

If two fluids have largely different density, or include a solids component, they will be much more resistant to mixing. Improper mixer engineering would result in stratification and settling within the mixing vessel.

Solids Suspension and Settling Rate

Specific Gravity is an important consideration in designing a mixer to solve a Solid Suspension problem.. When sizing a mixer for applications that require solids suspension, we need to calculate the settling rate of the particles. The components that affect the settling rate are:

  1. Particle Size
  2. Concentration of Solids
  3. Specific Gravity of the Solid (note: this is different than the SG of the fluid)

Based on the above information and Stoke’s law, the solid settling rate can be calculated. The solid settling rate is crucial as it affects the amount of pumping required for the appropriate level of suspension to be achieved, therefore impacting the configuration of the mixer.

For example, if the particle size of two products is the same and the specific gravity of the solids is different, the solids with the higher specific gravity will have a higher settling rate and in turn will require a larger mixer for suspension.

Suspension Quality

The level of suspension, or suspension quality, required in an application is generally determined by how uniform the product needs to be. Suspension is achieved using the specific amount of fluid force or “pumping”. The higher the level of pumping, the higher the mixing intensity is. Mixing intensity is usually categorized as mild, medium, and vigorous. As the pumping level increases so does the level of uniformity.

Let’s take a closer look at the three levels of suspension quality that can be achieved in mixing:

Solids Suspension - Off Bottom
  • Off Bottom: When the degree of pumping achieves 2x the settling rate, it raises the solids off the bottom and prevents a settled bed of particulates from collecting at the bottom of the tank. This is ideal when pumping the slurry out is required, but the consistency is not important.
Solids Suspension - Moderate
  • Moderate Uniformity: When the degree of pumping achieves 3x the settling rate, it produces moderate product uniformity that is suitable for most applications.
Solids Suspension - Top Draw Off
  • Top Draw-Off: When the degree of pumping achieves 6x the settling rate, it engages the entire tank and allows for consistent top draw-off. This is ideal in applications where the product is drawn from the top of the tank or in overflow applications.

Each level of suspension quality depends on complex interactions of impeller generated flow, turbulence, and solid loading. Although there are multiple factors to consider in solid/liquid systems, mixer configuration for this process always begins with impeller selection.

Mixer Configuration

Correct impeller design is crucial to reaching and maintaining the quality of an application. Impellers that create an axial flow deliver an annular velocity (upward pumping force) necessary to ensure that solids remain in suspension.

The rate of the flow in a tank needs to be greater than the solid settling rate, and the level of annular velocity achieved will determine the suspension quality created in the tank.

For more on impeller types and their flow patterns, see our article on The Basic Principles of Mixing and Impellers


As you can see, calculating and communicating the specific gravity of each of your mixing fluids to our sales engineers leads to the configuration of a mixer that will achieve great mixing results.

If you have any questions about specific gravity and how it affects your mixer configuration, post a comment below or email us at [email protected]

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Brian James the author

Dynamix Agitators incorporates over 45 years of industrial mixing experience into its industrial mixer models and the processes they are part of. Our mixers and agitators are configured to suit your process and application.

  1. Roman says:

    Great article guys.
    Good technical information backed with the formulas to check your own applications.
    I like this aspect of your web presence.
    Keep up the good work.

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