Density Gradient
Density gradient is a spatial variation in density
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

 over an area. The term is used in the natural sciences to describe varying density of matter
Matter is a general term for the substance of which all physical objects consist. Typically, matter includes atoms and other particles which have mass. A common way of defining matter is as anything that has mass and occupies volume...

, but can apply to any quantity
Quantity is a property that can exist as a magnitude or multitude. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more" or "less" or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value in terms of a unit of measurement. Quantity is among the basic classes of things along with quality, substance, change, and relation...

 whose density can be measured.


In the study of supersonic
Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

 flight, Schlieren photography
Schlieren photography
Schlieren photography is a visual process that is used to photograph the flow of fluids of varying density. Invented by the German physicist August Toepler in 1864 to study supersonic motion, it is widely used in aeronautical engineering to photograph the flow of air around objects...

 observes the density gradient of air as it interacts with aircraft.


A steep density gradient in a body of water can have the effect of trapping energy and preventing convection
Convection is the movement of molecules within fluids and rheids. It cannot take place in solids, since neither bulk current flows nor significant diffusion can take place in solids....

, such a gradient is employed in solar pond
Solar pond
A solar pond is a pool of saltwater which acts as a large-scale solar thermal energy collector with integral heat storage for supplying thermal energy...

s. In the case of salt water, sharp gradients can lead to stratification
Stratification (water)
Water stratification occurs when water masses with different properties - salinity , oxygenation , density , temperature - form layers that act as barriers to water mixing...

 of different concentrations of salinity
Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water. It is a general term used to describe the levels of different salts such as sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium sulfates, and bicarbonates...

. This is called a Halocline
In oceanography, a halocline is a subtype of chemocline caused by a strong, vertical salinity gradient within a body of water. Because salinity affects the density of seawater, it can play a role in its vertical stratification...



In the life sciences, a special technique called density gradient separation is used for isolating and purifying cells, viruses and subcellular particles. Variations of this include Isopycnic centrifugation
Isopycnic centrifugation
Isopycnic centrifugation, also known as density gradient centrifugation or equilibrium sedimentation is a technique used to separate molecules on the basis of buoyant density...

, Differential centrifugation
Differential centrifugation
Differential centrifugation is a common procedure in microbiology and cytology used to separate certain organelles from whole cells for further analysis of specific parts of cells. In the process, a tissue sample is first homogenised to break the cell membranes and mix up the cell contents...

, and Sucrose gradient centrifugation
Sucrose gradient centrifugation
Sucrose gradient centrifugation is a type of centrifugation often used to purify enveloped viruses and ribosomes, and also to separate cell organelles from crude cellular extracts...

. A blood donation technique called Pheresis involves density gradient separation.


The understanding of what is at the centre of the earth, the earth core, requires the framework of density gradients in which elements and compounds then interact. Fast breeder nuclear reactor at the core of the earth is one theory by reason of density gradient and supported and espoused by J. Marvin Herndon (7 & 8).

Regional Economics

In the study of population, the density gradient can refer to the change in density in an urban area from the center to the periphery.
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