Bulk density is not an intrinsic property of a material; it can change depending on how the material is handled. For example, a powder poured in to a cylinder will have a particular bulk density; if the cylinder is disturbed, the powder particles will move and usually settle closer together, resulting in a higher bulk density. For this reason, the bulk density of powders is usually reported both as "freely settled" and "tapped" density (where the tapped density refers to the bulk density of the powder after a specified compaction process, usually involving vibration of the container.)
The bulk density of soil depends greatly on the mineral make up of soil and the degree of compaction. The density of quartz is around 2.65g/cm³ but the bulk density of a mineral soil is normally about half that density, between 1.0 and 1.6g/cm³. Soils high in organics and some friable clay may have a bulk density well below 1g/cm³
Bulk density of soil is usually determined on Core samples which are taken by driving a metal corer into the soil at the desired depth and horizon. The samples are then oven dried and weighed.
Bulk density = mass of oven dry soil/core volume
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