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How to Calculate Buoyancy

Two Methods:Using the Buoyancy Force EquationPerforming a Simple Buoyancy
Buoyancy is the force acting opposite the direction of gravity that affects all
objects submerged in a fluid. When an object is placed in a fluid, the object's
weight pushes down on the fluid (liquid or gas) while an upward buoyancy force
pushes upward on the object, acting against gravity. In general terms, this
buoyancy force can be calculated with the equation Fb = Vs D g, where Fb is
the buoyancy force, Vs is the submerged volume, D is the density of the fluid the
object is submerged in, and g is the force of gravity. To learn how to determine an
object's buoyancy, see Step 1 below to get started.
Method 1
Using the Buoyancy Force Equation

1.

1
Find the volume of the submerged portion of the object. The force of
buoyancy that acts on an object is directly proportional to the volume of the
object that is submerged. In other words, the more of a solid object that is
submerged, the greater the force of buoyancy that acts on it. This means that
even objects that sink in liquid have a buoyancy force pushing upwards on
them. To begin to calculate the buoyancy force acting on an object, your first
step should generally be to determine the volume of the object that is
submerged in fluid. For the buoyancy force equation, this value should be in
meters3.

2.

For objects that are completely submerged in fluid, the submerged

volume will be equal to the volume of the object itself. For objects
that are floating on the surface of a fluid, only the volume under the
surface of the fluid is considered.
As an example, let's say that we want to find the buoyancy force
acting on a rubber ball floating in water. If the ball is a perfect sphere
with a diameter of 1 meter (3.3 ft) and it's floating exactly halfway
submerged in the water, we can find the volume of the submerged
portion by finding the volume of the entire ball and dividing it in half.
Since the volume of a sphere is (4/3)(radius)3 , we know our ball's
volume is (4/3)(0.5)3 = 0.524 meters3. 0.524/2 = 0.262 meters3
submerged.

2
Find the density of your fluid. The next step in the process of finding the
buoyancy force is to define the density (in kilograms/meter3) of the liquid
that the object is submerged in. Density is a measure of an object or
substance's weight relative to its volume. Given two objects of equal
volume, the object with the higher density will weigh more. As a rule, the
higher the density of the fluid an object is submerged in, the greater the force
of buoyancy. With fluids, it's generally easiest to determine density simply
by looking it up in reference materials.
o

In our example, our ball is floating in water. By consulting an

academic source, we can find that water has a density of about 1,000
kilograms/meter3.
The densities of many other common fluids are listed in engineering
resources. One such list can be found here.

3.

3
Find the force of gravity (or another downward force). Whether an object
sinks or floats in the fluid it's submerged in, it's always subject to the force
of gravity. In the real world, this constant downward force is equal to about
9.81 Newtons/kilogram. However, in situations in which another force, like
centrifugal force, is acting on the fluid and the object submerged in it, this
must also be taken into account to determine the total "downward" force for
the entire system.
o

In our example, if we're dealing with an ordinary, stationary system,

we can assume that the only downward force acting on the fluid and
object is the standard force of gravity 9.81 Newtons/kilogram.

However, what if our ball was floating in a bucket of water being

swung at great speed in a horizontal circle? In this case, assuming the
bucket is being swung fast enough to ensure that both the water and
the ball don't fall out, the "downward" force in this situation would be
derived from the centrifugal force created by swinging the bucket, not
from the earth's gravity.

4.

4
Multiply volume density gravity. When you have values for the
volume of your object (in meters3), the density of your fluid (in
kilograms/meter3), and the force of gravity (or the downward force of your

system), finding the buoyancy force is easy. Simply multiply these three
quantities to find the force of buoyancy in newtons.
o

Let's solve our example problem by plugging our values into the
equation Fb = Vs D g. Fb = 0.262 meters3 1,000 kilograms/meter3
9.81 newtons/kilogram = 2,570 Newtons.

5.

5
Find whether your object floats by comparing with its gravity force.
Using the buoyancy force equation, it's easy to find the force that's pushing
an object up out of the fluid it's submerged in. However, with a little extra
work, it's also possible to determine whether the object will float or sink.
Simply find the buoyancy force for the entire object (in other words, use its

entire volume as Vs), then find the force of gravity pushing it down with the
equation G = (mass of object)(9.81 meters/second2). If the force of buoyancy
is greater than the force of gravity, the object will float. On the other hand, if
the force of gravity is greater, it will sink. If they are equal, the object is said
to be neutrally buoyant.
o

For example, let's say we want to know if a 20 kilogram cylindrical

wooden barrel with a diameter of .75 meters (2.5 ft) and a height of
1.25 meters (4.1 ft) will float in water. This will take several steps:
We can find its volume with the cylindrical volume formula V =
(radius)2(height). V = (.375)2(1.25) = 0.55 meters3.

Next, assuming ordinary gravity and water with ordinary

density, we can solve for the force of buoyancy on the barrel.
0.55 meters3 1000 kilograms/meter3 9.81 newtons/kilogram
= 5,395.5 Newtons.

Now, we'll need to find the force of gravity on the barrel. G =

(20 kg)(9.81 meters/second2) = 196.2 Newtons. This is much
less than the buoyancy force, so the barrel will float.

6.

6
Use the same approach when your fluid is a gas. When performing
buoyancy problems, don't forget that the fluid that the object is submerged in
doesn't necessarily have to be a liquid. Gases also count as fluids, and,
although they have very low densities compared to other types of matter, can
still support the weight of certain objects floating in them. A simple helium
balloon is evidence of this. Because the gas in the balloon is less dense than
the fluid around it (ordinary air), it floats!
Method 2
Performing a Simple Buoyancy Experiment

1.

1
Place a small bowl or cup inside a bigger one. With a few household
items, it's easy to see the principals of buoyancy in action! In this simple
experiment, we'll demonstrate that a submerged object experiences
buoyancy because it displaces a volume of fluid equal to the volume of the
object submerged. As we do this, we'll also demonstrate how to practically
find an object's buoyancy force with this experiment. To begin, place a small
open container, like a bowl or a cup, inside a larger container, like large bowl
or a bucket.

2.

2
Fill the inner container to the brim. Next, fill the small inner container
with water. You want the water level to be at the very top of the container
without spilling. Be careful here! If you spill any water, empty the larger
container before trying again.
o

For the purposes of this experiment, it's safe to assume that water has
a standard density of 1000 kilograms/meter3. Unless you're using
saltwater or a different liquid entirely, most types of water will have a
density close enough to this reference value that any minor difference
won't alter our results.

If you have an eyedropper handy, this can be very helpful for

precisely leveling off the water in the inner container.

3.

3
Submerge a small object. Next, find a small object that can fit inside the
inner container and won't be damaged by water. Find this object's mass in
kilograms (you may want to use a scale or balance which can give you
grams and convert up to kilograms). Then, without letting your fingers get
wet, slowly and steadily dip this into the water until it starts to float or you
can just barely hold on to it, then let go. You should notice some of the water
in the inner container spill over the edge into the outer container.

For the purposes of our example, let's say that we're lowering a toy car
with a mass of 0.05 kilograms into the inner container. We don't need
to know the volume of this car to calculate its buoyancy, as we'll see
in the next step.

4.

4
Collect and measure the water that spills over. When you submerge an
object in water, it displaces some of the water if it didn't, there wouldn't
be any space for it to enter the water. When it pushes this water out of the
way, the water pushes back, resulting in buoyancy. Take the water that
spilled out of the inner container and pour it into a small glass measuring
cup.The volume of water in the cup should be equal to volume of the
submerged object.

In other words, if your object floats, the volume of the water that
spills over will be equal to the volume of the object submerged under
the surface of the water. If your object sank, the volume of the water
that spills over will be equal to the volume of the entire object.

5.

5
Calculate the weight of the spilled water. Since you know the density of
water and you can measure the volume of the water that spilled into the
measuring cup, you can find its mass. Simply convert its volume to meters3
(an online conversion tool, such as this one, can be helpful here) and
multiply it by the density of water (1,000 kilograms/meters3).

In our example, let' say that our toy car sunk into the inner container
and displaced about two tablespoons (.00003 meters3). To find the
mass of our water, we'd multiply this by its density: 1,000
kilograms/meters3 .00003 meters3 = 0.03 kilograms.

6.

6
Compare the displaced water's mass to the object's. Now that you know
the mass of both the object you submerged in water and the mass of the
water it displaced, compare them to see which is greater. If the mass of the
object submerged in the inner container is greater than that of the displaced
water, it should have sunk. On the other hand, if the mass of the displaced
water is greater, the object should have floated. This is the principle of

buoyancy in action for an object to be buoyant (float), it has to displace

an amount of water with a mass greater than that of the object itself.
o

Thus, objects with low masses but big volumes are the most buoyant
types of objects. This property means hollow objects are especially
buoyant. Think of a canoe it floats well because it's hollow in the
inside, so it's able to displace a lot of water without having a very high
mass. If canoes were solid, they wouldn't float very well at all.
In our example, the car has a higher mass (0.05 kilograms) than the
water it displaced (0.03 kilograms). This lines up with what we
observed: the car sank.

How do I determine the buoyancy force of a rectangular pontoon floating in
water of 70 mm depth, that weighs 2.6 kg, has a length of 360 mm,and a
breadth of 206 mm?
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Video
Tips

Use a scale or balance that can be set to zero after each reading to help get
accurate measurements.

Small submersible object (like a rubber ball)

Measuring cup

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Sources and Citations

http://www.howstuffworks.com/buoyancy-info.htm
http://www.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/10scientific-laws-theories7.htm
http://www.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities/watersports/sailboat2.htm