Heavy liquid

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A heavy liquid is a solution or liquid chemical substance with a high density and a relatively low viscosity. Heavy liquids are often used for determination of density in mineralogy, for density gradient centrifugation and for separating mixtures.


Common applications of heavy liquids include:


The classical heavy liquids like 1,1,2,2-tetrabromoethane (Muthmanns solution), potassium tetraiodomercurate(II) (Thoulets solution), bromoform or diiodomethane which are used in mineralogy are very toxic. These toxic chemicals are avoided today in consideration of the fact that there are alternative water based, non-toxic heavy liquids like sodium polytungstate solutions.[1] With this relatively new heavy liquid densities up to 3.1 g·cm−3 can be adjusted . Adding parts of pulverulent Tungsten carbide increases the density to 4.6 g·cm−3.[2]

List of common heavy liquids with density > 2.0 g·cm−3[edit]

Name Density in g·cm−3
1,2-Dibromoethane 2.180
cis-1,2-Dibromoethene 2.246
trans-1,2-Dibromoethene 2.231
Dibromomethane 2.477
Bromal 2.550
Bromoform 2.890
1,1,2,2-Tetrabromoethane (Muthmanns solution) 2.967
Sodium polytungstate 3.100
Bromine 3.1028
Thoulets solution 3.196
Diiodomethane 3.325
Indiumiodide 3.40
Bariummercuriciodide 3.57
Thallium formate + Thallium malonate (Clerici solution) 4.25
Liquid metal (Gallium/Indium/Tin/Zinc alloy) 6.5
Mercury 13.6


  1. ^ Callahan J, A non-toxic heavy liquid and inexpensive filters for separation of mineral grains, in Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 57/1987, S.765-6
  2. ^ CD Römpp Chemie Lexikon – Version 1.0: Schwerflüssigkeiten, Georg Thieme Verlag, 1995


  • Schnitzer W, Zur Problematik der Schwermineralanalyse am Beispiel triassischer Sedimentgesteine, in International Journal of Earth Sciences, 72/1983, S.67–75, ISSN 1437-3254 (Print) 1437-3262 (Online)
  • Boenigk, Schwermineralanalyse, S.6–15, Stuttgart: Enke, 1983.
  • Ney, Gesteinsaufbereitung im Labor, S.92–113, Stuttgart: Enke, 1986.

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