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Manometers and Barometers



The piece of lab equipment specifically designed to measure the pressure of gases is known as the barometer. A barometer uses the height of a column of mercury to measure gas pressure in millimeters of mercury or torr (1 mmHg = 1 torr). The mercury is pushed up the tube from the dish until the pressure at the bottom of the tube (due to the mass of the mercury) is balanced by the atmospheric pressure.

Interesting Note-The weight of the column of mercury is equal to the force of the atmospheric pressure. It the column was water the column would have to be 34 feet tall.


Height water = 13.6g/mL  10,336mm=1,033.6cm x(1 in/2.54cm)=407in /(12in/ft)=34 ft

Using this information, another amazing fact is that the maximum length a straw can be (assuming 760mmHg of pressure) is 34 feet tall.

760mmHg 1.00g/ml



So how dense is Mercury? Watch and find out.





The open-tube manometer is another device that can be used to measure pressure. The open-tube manometer is used to measure the pressure of a gas in a container.

The pressure of the gas is given by h (the difference in mercury levels) in units of torr or mmHg. Atmospheric pressure pushes on the mercury from one direction, and the gas in the container pushes from the other direction. In a manometer, since the gas in the bulb is pushing more than the atmospheric pressure, you add the atmospheric pressure to the height difference:

Pgas > Patm         Gas pressure = atmospheric pressure + h (height of the mercury)

Pgas < Patm Gas pressure = atmospheric pressure - h (height of the mercury)

You could be asked about a closed-tube manometer. Closed-tube manometers look similar to regular manometers except that the end that’s open to the atmospheric pressure in a regular manometer is sealed and contains a vacuum. In these systems, the difference in mercury levels (in mmHg) is equal to the pressure in torr.


Closed tube Open Tube Open Tube



Pgas=755mmHg + 24mmHg=779mmHg

Pgas=763mmHg - 35mmHg=728mmHg


Move the bars and see what happens to the mercury in the U-tube.

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