Vapour density is the density of a vapour in relation to that of hydrogen. It may be defined as mass of a certain volume of a substance divided by mass of same volume of hydrogen.

vapour density = mass of n molecules of gas / mass of n molecules of hydrogen.


vapour density = molar mass of gas / molar mass of H2

vapour density = molar mass of gas / 2.016

vapour density = ~½ × molar mass

(and thus: molar mass = ~2 × vapour density) For example, vapour density of mixture of NO2 and N2O4 is 38. 3.Vapour density is a unitless quantity.

Alternative definitionEdit

In many web sources, particularly in relation to safety considerations at commercial and industrial facilities in the U.S., vapour density is defined with respect to air, not hydrogen.[1] Air is given a vapour density of one. For this use, air has a molecular weight of 28.97 atomic mass units, and all other gas and vapour molecular weights are divided by this number to derive their vapour density.[2] For example, acetone has a vapour density of 2[3] in relation to air. That means acetone vapour is twice as heavy as air. This can be seen by dividing the molecular weight of Acetone, 58.1[4] by that of air, 28.97, which equals 2.

With this definition, the vapour density would indicate whether a gas is denser (greater than one) or less dense (less than one) than air. The density has implications for container storage and personnel safety—if a container can release a dense gas, its vapour could sink and, if flammable, collect until it is at a concentration sufficient for ignition. Even if not flammable, it could collect in the lower floor or level of a confined space and displace air, possibly presenting an asphyxiation hazard to individuals entering the lower part of that space.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ MSDS Glossary of Terms – Vapor Density. Retrieved on 2012-02-09.
  2. ^ HazMat Math: Calculating Vapor Density Archived 2011-07-11 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2012-02-09.
  3. ^ MSDS: Acetone. (1998-04-21). Retrieved on 2012-02-09.
  4. ^ NIOSH Pocket Guide: Acetone. Retrieved on 2012-02-09.